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The Latest: McConnell: US not trying to start war with Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on developments as the U.S. and Iran edge toward a flashpoint amid escalation in the Persian Gulf region (all times local): 2:40 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Trump administration is "certainly not trying to start a war with Iran."

The Kentucky Republican told reporters at his weekly news conference Tuesday that President Donald Trump is taking a "measured approach" to what he considers Iranian aggression. The United States has blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers in the Persian Gulf. Iran denies that.

Trump also is sending another 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East after Iran said it will break the international agreement on its nuclear program. Trump administration officials are set to give Congress a series of briefings on Iran this week.

__ 2 p.m. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he's worried about the situation in the Persian Gulf and is reiterating that "it's very important to avoid any escalation." The U.N. chief has called for an independent investigation into the suspected attacks on two tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, saying it's important to know the truth about what happened.

The United States has blamed Iran for the attacks. Iran denies the accusation. Guterres told reporters at U.N. headquarters Tuesday who asked about President Donald Trump's decision to send another 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East: "I strongly hope that the situation will be contained because as I said, and I repeat, the world does not really need a major confrontation in the Gulf."

__ 1 p.m. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf is not for war but to deter Iranian aggression. On a visit Tuesday to the U.S. Central Command in Florida, Pompeo says he is confident that the military is up to the challenge and is ready to respond to any attack on American interests in the region.

Pompeo says President Donald Trump does not want war and is only seeking to re-establish a deterrent to Iranian threats. Pompeo traveled to the base after the Pentagon announced the deployment of an addition 1,000 troops to the region.

Pompeo says he made the trip to visit commanders in Florida to ensure that America's diplomatic and military efforts are coordinated. He says the Trump administration will "do the right thing" as it relates to Iran, which is to make clear that the U.S. is serious.

__ 12:20 p.m. The White House is stepping up its outreach to Congress as tensions escalate in the Middle East. Lawmakers will receive a series of classified and unclassified briefings on Iran from Trump administration officials. That's according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Iran has said it will break compliance with the international agreement that keeps it from making nuclear weapons. The administration followed that announcement by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.

McConnell says the risk of a conflict with Iran is real, and he says the administration should work with U.S. allies "to encourage Iran's leaders to cease their aggression." Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer acknowledges there are problems with Iran but he criticizes President Donald Trump's strategy as "erratic" and "opaque."

9:35 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl) says her country is taking "very seriously" the new U.S. information about Iran's alleged responsibility for attacks last week on two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf.

Merkel says "there's a high-level of evidence. But that won't stop me from saying we have to do everything to solve the conflict situation with Iran in a peaceful manner."

Iran denies the U.S. accusation.

She says Germany is in close contact with the United States and "will do everything to impress on all sides, but especially to make clear to Iran, that this serious situation mustn't be aggravated."

Merkel also says Germany wants Iran to abide by the 2015 nuclear accord, adding that "if that isn't the case that will of course have consequences."

6:35 a.m.

China's top diplomat has warned the United States against opening a "Pandora's box" in the Middle East after a recent flare-up in tension between Washington and Tehran.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi is calling on both countries to avoid escalating the situation. It's an echo of earlier statements by Chinese officials following last week's apparent attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has denied a U.S. accusation that it was behind the attacks, which hit Norwegian and Japanese ships off Iran's coast. Each vessel was loaded with petroleum products, and one was set ablaze.

China is the world's largest buyer of Iranian oil and has maintained its support for the Iran nuclear deal.

6:25 a.m.

It's a test of resolve and credibility for the United States and Iran as the two adversaries take steps sure to further inflame tensions in the Mideast and draw them closer to a flashpoint.

Iran says it's breaking compliance with the international agreement that keeps it from making nuclear weapons. The Trump administration followed that announcement by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.

Iran soon could start enriching uranium to a step away from weapons-grade levels. That's a challenge to President Donald Trump's assurances to allies that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal last year made the world a safer place.

Iran's president says his country does "not wage war with any nation" and that "the entire Iranian nation is unanimous in confronting" U.S. pressures.

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