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US emphasises diplomacy in standoff with Iran

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Sunday (Sep 22) it will make its case against Iran at the United Nations this week, insisting it wants to give diplomacy "every opportunity to succeed" in the wake of a devastating attack on a vital Saudi oil complex.

Setting the stage for President Donald Trump's address to the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put aside threats of US military retaliation against Iran for the attack.

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"President Trump and I both want to give diplomacy every opportunity to succeed," Pompeo said in an interview with ABC's "This Week."

"Our administration's taking this on in a serious way and we are working diligently to see that this has a diplomatic outcome," he said.

"But make no mistake about it, if we're unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives."

The United States has accused Tehran of carrying out the sneak air attacks that set aflame Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field Sep 14, knocking out half the kingdom's oil production.

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Pompeo called it "one of the largest attacks on the global energy supply in history."

But despite initial warnings by Trump that US forces were "locked and loaded", the US president quickly softened his rhetoric, brushing off Republican hawks who warned that the absence of a forceful response would be read as weakness in Tehran.

Trump has so far ordered stepped up sanctions against Iran, and a relatively modest deployment of US troops to the Gulf, primarily focused on defensive missions like air and missile defense.

On Fox News, Pompeo said the administration was "deeply aware of the risks" of a miscalculation leading to conflagration in the tinderbox region.

"It's why we want to resolve this in a way that doesn't resort to kinetic action if it's at all possible to achieve that," he said.

IRAN'S SHARPENING TONE

On Sunday, before leaving the White House on a trip to Texas, Trump once again left open the possibility of an unscheduled meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

"Nothing is ever off the table, completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran and that doesn't mean it doesn't happen," Trump said. "I'm a very flexible person, but we have no intention. It's not set up."

The US diplomati

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