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Thursday May 23rd, 2019 5:00AM

The Latest: Kremlin says Pompeo didn't ease Moscow concerns

By The Associated Press
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on developments in the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere in Mideast amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local):

2:20 p.m.

The Kremlin's spokesman says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn't offer President Vladimir Putin any reassurances or ease Moscow's concerns over the ongoing crisis between the United States and Iran.

Pompeo met with Putin on Tuesday in Russia's resort of Sochi where he sought to alleviate some of the concerns about the spiraling tensions but made clear the U.S. would respond to any attacks on American targets.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Moscow is concerned over mounting tensions and defended Iran's actions as a legitimate response to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has given European countries a 60-day deadline to negotiate a new nuclear deal Tehran or it would start enriching uranium to higher levels than outlined in the current agreement.

—This item has been corrected to show that Pompeo and Putin met on Tuesday, not Monday;

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12: 15 p.m.

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq says the State Department has ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country right away amid escalating tensions with Iran.

The alert, published on the embassy's website on Wednesday, comes after Washington last week said it had detected new and urgent threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and American interests. 

On Sunday, the embassy advised Americans to avoid travel to Iraq, citing "heightened tensions."

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10:30 a.m.

Iran's supreme leader claims that enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels would not be a difficult task for the country — the latest threats from Tehran as tensions roil the region amid the unraveling of the nuclear deal.

State-owned IRAN daily quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as telling a group of officials during a meeting on Tuesday night that "achieving 20 percent enrichment is the most difficult part. The next steps are easier than this step."

Iran recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the 3.67% permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers. The Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year.

Iranian officials have said that they could reach 20% enrichment within four days. Though Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, scientists say the time needed to reach the 90% threshold for weapons-grade uranium is halved once uranium is enriched to around 20%.

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10:10 a.m.

A satellite image obtained by The Associated Press shows one of the two pumping stations attacked by drones in Saudi Arabia apparently intact.

The image from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. that the AP examined on Wednesday shows Saudi Aramco's Pumping Station No. 8 outside of the town of al-Duadmi. It's 330 kilometers, or 205 miles, west of the capital, Riyadh.

The photo, taken Tuesday after the attack claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, shows two black marks near where Saudi Arabia's East-West Pipeline passes by the facility. Those marks weren't there in images taken Monday.

The facility otherwise appears intact.

The attack came as regional tensions flared, just days after what the kingdom called an attack on two of its oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

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