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McCain warns of increasing Iranian influence

 
Listen to Sen. McCain’s remarks from Jordan

(CNN)— Senator John McCain warned Tuesday Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East is hindering progress in Iraq.

Closing a week-long congressional delegation to the region that included a time in Iraq, McCain expressed concern over a large cache of explosives found in Iraq and alluded that they may have been sent from Iran.

During a press conference in Amman, Jordan, the Arizona senator also said there is a continued concern that Iran may be training Iraqi extremists in Iran and then sending them back into Iraq.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also said he was concerned about Iran developing nuclear weapons and said he planned to work closely with European allies to set in place a strict set of sanctions “that would be harmful and compelling" to Iran's trade, diplomatic, and financial institutions if he was elected president.

"There'd be a broad range of sanctions and punishments to the Iranians to help try to convince them that their activities – particularly development of nuclear weapons – is not a beneficial goal to seek," he said.

McCain said he was encouraged by the progress he saw in Iraq as well as his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan.

"We realize that there are enormous challenges in the form of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and also continued efforts to win the struggle in Iraq, which we are succeeding but we still have a long way to go," he said.

Despite having a fundraiser planned in London this Thursday, McCain stressed the trip, his eighth to Iraq was not political. McCain is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was joined on his trip by two fellow committee members, Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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–CNN's Emily Sherman