Mike Pompeo says Tehran declined his proposed visit to speak to the Iranian people

US secretary of state says his Iranian counterpart is allowed to speak freely in America

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about refugees as he makes a statement to the media Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the Iranian regime declined his offer to travel to the country and speak to its people.

In a tweet, he said: “I recently offered to travel to Tehran and speak directly to the Iranian people. The regime hasn’t accepted my offer.”

"We aren't afraid of @JZarif [Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif] coming to America where he enjoys the right to speak freely. Are the facts of the @khamenei_ir [Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] regime so bad he cannot let me do the same thing in Tehran? What if his people heard the truth, unfiltered, unabridged?"

In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr Pompeo said that Mr Zarif had the chance to speak to the American public and "put Iranian propaganda out into the American air waves".

Mr Zarif visited New York earlier this month for a UN meeting, giving several interviews with US broadcasters.

Commenting on visiting Iran, Mr Pompeo said he would go there "not to spread propaganda", but to "speak the truth to the Iranian people about what it is the leadership has done and how it has harmed Iran".

He believed the reason had not been permitted to go was because the Iranian regime "know the truth as well".

The news comes as diplomats from countries that signed the 2015 nuclear deal met in Vienna on Sunday in an attempt to salvage the agreement. The United States withdrew from the agreement last year.

Iranian official Abbas Araqchi called the meeting "constructive", but said there were many issues left unresolved.

Tension between Iran and the West has escalated in recent months after several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region, as well as the seizure of vessels.

The US said it brought down one and possibly two Iranian drones this month, and blamed Tehran for a series of attacks on tanker ships.

Iran shot down an unmanned US aircraft in June, after which US President Donald Trump announced he had called off retaliatory air strikes at the last minute because the resulting death toll would have been too high.

Tehran is also in the middle of a dispute with Britain, and seized the oil tanker Steno Impero and its 23-member crew in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month. It was seen as a tit-for-tat response to the British Navy seizing an Iranian vessel that was carrying 2.1 billion barrels of oil to Syria on June 4.

Iran also announced in June that it was exceeding the uranium-enrichment levels agreed to in the nuclear deal.

The UK and the US have increased their military presence in the Gulf in response to the escalating tension with Tehran.