Pompeo says ‘no indications’ that Iran is changing its ‘malign behavior’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that there are “no indications” that Iran is willing to change its “malign behavior” as the Iranian regime continues to act aggressively on the world stage.

“In the end, the Iranians, the regime, has to make a decision that it wants to behave like a normal nation," Pompeo told reporters during a press conference with Ecuadorian president Lenín Moreno. "And if they do that, we’re prepared to negotiate across a broad spectrum of issues with no preconditions and I hope that they will do that,”

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Pompeo added that the U.S. has tried to de-escalate the situation and create the space for negotiations, but added that “we have seen no indications that the Iranians are prepared to fundamentally change the direction of their nation, to do the things we’ve asked them to do with their nuclear program, their missile program, their malign behavior around the world.”

The secretary of state's remarks came one day after Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Senior Iranian officials said that the seizure of the Stena Impero as well as the brief detainment of a second UK-flagged vessel were a “reciprocal” measure for the July 4 seizure of an Iranian tanker by British Royal Marines off the island of Gibraltar.

That contradicted the message put out by the state-run news agency IRNA that claimed the British vessel was seized because it rammed an Iranian fishing boat.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday that he had spoken with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, and "it’s clear from talking to him and also statements made by Iran that they see this as a tit-for-tat situation ... Nothing could be further from the truth."

Hunt said the Iranian tanker Grace1 violated European Union sanctions by carrying oil to Syria, making its detention in the waters of a British territory legal.

"The Stena Impero was seized in Omani waters in clear contravention of international law," Hunt said. "It was then forced to sail into Iran. This is totally and utterly unacceptable ...

"Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation," the foreign secretary went on. " ... But, we need to see due process happening in Iran as well. We need to see the illegal seizing of a British-flagged vessel reversed, we need that ship released, and we continue to be very concerned about the safety and welfare of the 23 crew members."

Maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz has deteriorated in recent weeks after six attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. has blamed on Iran – an allegation the Tehran government denies. The U.S. pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year and has imposed waves of economic sanctions on Tehran as part of an effort to curb Iranian aggression in the region.

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On Friday, the U.S. said one of its warships downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn't happen.

President Trump said Friday that Iran is “nothing but trouble” shortly after the news broke of the seized tankers, though he remained hopeful the standoff will work out “very nicely.”

He added that the regime “is showing their colors” by seizing the tankers and that it’s in “big trouble right now” due to the crushing sanctions imposed by the U.S.

Pompeo on Saturday said the administration holds out hope that Tehran will come to the negotiating table.

“These are not the actions of a country that looks like it’s headed in the right direction but we hope, as President Trump has said, that they will sit down and discuss each of these items with us,” he said.

Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis, Greg Norman, Ben Florance and The Associated Press contributed to this report.