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US against Iran’s proliferation of weapons, funding of proxies in Iraq, Yemen

US defense secretary James Mattis
US defencs secretary James Mattis speaks during the second day of the summit in Manama. Hamad l Mohammed / Reuters
US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Saturday that Washington vows to end Iran's support for the proliferation of weapons and its funding of militias in the region, The National reported.

Mr Mattis critiqued Iran's "outlaw regime", saying that it has fueled insurgencies in Yemen and Iraq, backed Bashar Al Assad's brutal regime in Syria and fostered chaos across the region.

"The US stands against Iran’s proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and its funding of and technical assistance to lethal militants and proxy terrorists," he told Arab leaders in Manama, Bahrain.

He reiterated Washington's support for its regional partners to defend themselves against Iranian-backed Houthi attacks on their territories and at the same time called for an urgent end to the fighting.

"Proxy forces [supported] by Iran’s regime doesn't lessen their accountability [and] we will stand against Iran's effort to enhance its nuclear program," he said.

On Yemen, Mr Mattis said that all wars in the region must end.

“We strive to build the capacity of legitimate Yemeni forces, calling for urgent end to the fighting,” he said. "Compromise must replace combat".

He told leaders that there is no role for Iran in this conflict, stressing that diplomats should be allowed to "work their magic in Yemen. It's in the interests of the Houthi rebels to engage with UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths."

Mr Mattis called for support for a UN-backed political process in Yemen.

The US vows to ensure that weapons of mass destruction will stay out of the hands of irresponsible actors to counter emerging terrorist threats.

"Failure of any nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most,” he added.

Addressing the Syrian conflict, Mr Mattis said that Russia will not take America's place in the region.

"Russia's presence in the region cannot replace the long-standing, enduring and transparent US commitment to the Middle East," Mr Mattis said.

The US official was speaking as Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to hold talks in Istanbul with the leaders of France, Germany and Turkey on Saturday seeking to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict in Syria.

Mr Mattis said that Moscow's "opportunism and willingness to overlook Syria's criminal activities against his own people evidences its lack of sincere commitment to essential moral principles."

Iran's support for the Syrian regime "coupled with Russia's repeated vetoes of UN Security Council Resolutions, is the leading reason Assad remains in power," he said.
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