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Pompeo in London to discuss the UK-US 'special relationship'

LONDON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in London for talks with British officials on the status of the special relationship between the two nations amid heightened tensions with Iran and uncertainty over Britain's exit from the European Union.

Pompeo will meet Wednesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and will later deliver a speech on the potential for improved U.S.-U.K. ties after Brexit. At his first event in the British capital, a meeting about religious freedom with Hunt and British faith leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Pompeo told participants that the Trump administration is committed to the rights of all people to worship as they please.

"In the United States it's in our Constitution, the First Amendment, it's central to our founding," he said. Welby thanked Pompeo for the administration's attention to the matter, noting that Christians in the Middle East and Africa and religious minorities everywhere are under threat.

"In some (countries), freedom of religion and belief is not acceptable. We would like to encourage that, while being culturally sensitive, to say that freedom to worship is an essential part of being a human being," he said.

But Welby also sounded a note of caution by telling Pompeo that foreign military inventions often have severe consequences for religious freedoms. "Where the interests of religious minorities are concerned, foreign interventions can often have very serious, long-term (impacts)," he said.

Pompeo didn't address Welby's comment. Pompeo arrived in London after canceling a trip to Germany to make an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he warned Iraqi officials about what he called imminent threats to American interests in the Middle East.

Iran said earlier Wednesday that it would partially suspend its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew last year. Britain remains a party to the deal and has been working with the other European participants, France and Germany, on ways to salvage the accord in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal.

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