WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended his policy approach to Iran on Wednesday, faced with widespread criticism that the Trump administration’s path forward out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran is maximalist and unrealistic.

President Donald Trump’s new top diplomat offered remarks on Monday that outlined 12 “demands” of Iran, including a complete end to its nuclear program, its ballistic-missile work and its broad foreign policy across the Middle East, such as its support for Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Lawmakers pressed Pompeo on specifics during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the State Department budget.

“In the almost three years of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal], the Iranians marched across the Middle East,” Pompeo said. “We’re simply asking Iran to be a normal country.”

“I don’t know which of the 12 asks you’d like me to get rid of,” he added. The list also includes the release of US citizens detained in Iran.

Pompeo said he plans to continue talks in June with European leaders, currently bristling over Trump’s exit from the nuclear accord and his decision to snap back all US sanctions at once – a major blow to EU businesses that have invested in the Islamic Republic since world powers implemented the nuclear deal.

“Everyone agrees to the problem set. We need to find a path forward together to address it,” Pompeo said. “We are committed to developing a diplomatic solution that gets there.”

Asked whether any companies would receive waivers from the sanctions, Pompeo demurred, noting that penalties would snap back in full in 90 and 180 days, depending on the provision.

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