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Trump, Pompeo bash ex-Secretary of State Kerry on Iran talks

AP  |  Washington 

of State unloaded Friday on his Obama-era predecessor for "actively undermining" US policy on by meeting several times recently with the Iranian foreign minister, who was his main interlocutor in the nuclear deal negotiations.

In unusually blunt and caustic language, Pompeo said Kerry's meetings with were "unseemly and unprecedented" and "beyond inappropriate."

had late Thursday accused Kerry of holding "illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people."

Pompeo said he would leave "legal determinations to others" but slammed Kerry as a former of state for engaging with "the world's largest state-sponsor of terror" and telling to "wait out this administration."

He noted that just this week Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at US diplomatic compounds in

"You can't find precedent for this in US history, and Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behaviour," an agitated Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

"It's inconsistent with what foreign policy of the is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged."

Kerry, who is promoting his new book "Every Day is Extra," tweeted a response to Trump that referred to the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who agreed on Friday to cooperate with the special counsel's investigation into interference in the 2016 and possible coordination between and the Trump campaign.

"Mr President, you should be more worried about meeting with than me meeting with Iran's FM. But if you want to learn something about the nuclear agreement that made the world safer, buy my new book," Kerry said.

He did not immediately respond to Pompeo's remarks.

In the past, Kerry has been harshly critical of the and from the Iran deal. Kerry denies negotiating with the Iranians since leaving office or trying to "coach" them.

Pompeo also took to task former Energy Secretary and ex-Iran deal for joining Kerry at a meeting with Zarif and other Iranian officials earlier this year at a security conference in

Along with Kerry, Moniz and Sherman played key roles in negotiating the 2015 agreement between Iran and several world powers that lifted sanctions against in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

"I wasn't in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of the US policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said.

"Former secretaries of state all of them, from either political party ought not to be engaged in" this kind of activity, he said.

"Actively undermining the US policy as a former is literally unheard of."

Meetings between a private US are not against the and not necessarily inappropriate or a violation of federal regulations, but Trump, Pompeo and several GOP lawmakers say they are evidence Kerry and former officials are trying to subvert Trump's hard line on Iran.

"had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump tweeted late Thursday.

"He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!" The Trump invoked the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA requires registration and transparency by people or companies acting on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or individuals.

But Josh Rosenstein, a partner with the firm and a in lobbying compliance, said there are too many unanswered questions to know whether the law applies to Kerry's interactions with Zarif.

FARA's provisions don't extend to activities conducted entirely overseas, so where Kerry interacted with him matters. Also unclear is whether any Iranians specifically asked Kerry for advice.

"The devil's always in the details," Rosenstein said. "Simply offering advice to a foreign doesn't make you a foreign agent." When reports of Kerry's ex-officio contacts with Zarif first surfaced in May, Trump tweeted similar thoughts.

"can't get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from negotiations John, you are hurting your country!" he said on May 8. A day earlier, he tweeted: "The does not need John Kerry's possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!"

Trump and Pompeo's criticism came after Kerry told conservative radio host on Wednesday that earlier reports of his meetings with Zarif were correct: They had met three or four times since Kerry left office but not since Pompeo took the job in April.

One of those meetings took place in Oslo, Norway, and another in Munich, he said. A third is reported to have occurred at the headquarters, which is not technically on US soil.

Kerry told Hewitt that he was not coaching the Iranians on how to deal with the

"That's not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that's not how it works," he said in the interview.

"What I have done is tried to elicit from him (Zarif) what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the for the better.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, September 15 2018. 03:50 IST