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Trump nominee Pompeo pledges to be tough on Russia, 'fix' Iran deal

From Reuters - April 12, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo promised on Thursday he would be willing to break from President Donald Trump if necessary, saying he would take a tough line with Russia and that he wanted to fix the Iran nuclear deal.

Pompeo, who is currently director of the Central Intelligence Agency, blamed tensions between Moscow and Washington on Russias bad behavior and said he would support more U.S. sanctions against Russia.

(Russian President) Vladimir Putin has not yet received the message sufficiently, Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a relatively smooth five-hour-long confirmation hearing.

He said Russias push into Ukraine and other countries needed to be curbed. We need to push back in each place and in every vector, Pompeo said. We need to make sure that Vladimir Putin doesnt succeed in what he believes his ultimate goal is.

Critics, including some in Trumps own Republican Party, have accused the president of taking too soft a line on the Russian president. Trump has denied that - and has been strongly critical in recent days of Moscows backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - but he has also talked of wanting better relations with Putin.

Trump nominated Pompeo to become the countrys top diplomat on March 13 after firing Rex Tillerson. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil(XOM.N), had a rocky relationship with Trump in just over a year in the job.

The start of Pompeos hearing was disrupted by protesters chanting: No Pompeo, no more war. Another shouted that the CIA director was no diplomat.

DEMOCRATIC PRAISE

While Pompeo faced pointed questions from Democrats - including about his continued opposition to gay marriage and his associations with anti-Muslim organizations - he was also complimented. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin praised Pompeos concise answers. Senator Chris Coons said he was confident Pompeo would be a strong advocate for diplomats.

Pompeo will likely need Democratic support to be approved by the committee because one Republican member, Senator Rand Paul, has announced his opposition. Senate rules allow a vote in the full Senate even if the panel does not approve the nomination, but that has never happened with a secretary of state.

Senator Bob Corker, the panels Republican chairman, said he hoped it would vote on Pompeo on April 23, with a confirmation vote in the full Senate shortly afterward. At the end of the hearing, Corker said Pompeo had his avid support.

Senator Robert Menendez, the panels top Democrat, said he would make his final decision after reviewing Pompeos testimony and answers to written questions. He said he had not seen enough evidence of Pompeos independence.

I think he is someone who will execute what the president wants even if he is in disagreement, Menendez said.

As a Republican congressman, Pompeo was a strong opponent of the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six world powers reached under Democratic President Barack Obama, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehrans nuclear program.

TIES TO TRUMP

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