By Alexander Cornwell
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United States is in talks with the European Union about tightening sanctions on Iran over its missile programme and foreign policy, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told a conference in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
Speaking in the capital Abu Dhabi, Ryan said the Islamic Republic was seeking to expand its influence in the region at the expense of staunch U.S. allies like the UAE and Saudi Arabia and needed to be constrained by sanctions.
The United States and other major powers lifted broad sanctions on Iran after a landmark deal over its nuclear programme in 2015, but Washington has since slapped Tehran with new sanctions over its long-range missile programme.
Ryan said the European Union should follow suit, underscoring a 120-day ultimatum President Donald Trump gave the U.S. Congress as well as the European allies, Britain, France, Germany to come up with a tougher approach toward Iran or else see the President reimpose full sanctions.
"Look at their violations of missile testing, look at what they're doing in the region, look at what they're doing in Syria, look at what they're doing in Yemen," Ryan said.
"There's more that we can do from the economic side. We have the tools we can use along with our allies ... that's the discussion we're having about tightening up sanctions and trying to get Europe involved in that," he added.
Trump has warned that the U.S. will not continue to abide by the nuclear accord, which he has called "the worst deal ever negotiated", and Britain, France and Germany have begun talks on a plan to satisfy him by addressing Iran's missile tests and its regional actions.
Iran has one of the Middle East’s largest missile programmes and some of its precision-guided missiles have the range to strike Israel. Tehran has repeatedly said its missile programme is defensive and not negotiable.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab countries accuse Iran of stoking wars and political crises around the region by supporting its Shi'ite co-religionists.
Tehran denies the charges and accuses Gulf Arab states of being pawns of Western powers seeking to dominate the region and advance the interests of its foe Israel.
(Writing by Noah Browning, Editing by William Maclean)