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Trump Meeting With G-7 Leaders         05/26 05:41

   In the Middle East, President Donald Trump was feted with pageantry, the 
leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel seemingly in competition to outdo the other 
with the warmth of their welcomes and the depth of their pledges of cooperation.

   TAORMINA, Italy (AP) -- In the Middle East, President Donald Trump was feted 
with pageantry, the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel seemingly in competition 
to outdo the other with the warmth of their welcomes and the depth of their 
pledges of cooperation.

   But in Europe, Trump has faced a far cooler reception and has been eager to 
go on the offensive.

   Cajoled on issues like climate change and NATO's defense pact, he's 
responded by scolding some of the United States' most loyal allies for not 
paying their fair share. He's also refused to explicitly back the mutual 
defense agreement that has been activated only once, during the darkest hours 
of September 2001.

   Still, Trump hailed the trip a success as he arrived to the G-7 summit in 
Sicily Friday, the final stop of his maiden international trip, a grueling 
nine-day, five-stop marathon.

   "Getting ready to engage G7 leaders on many issues including economic 
growth, terrorism, and security," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Trip has been very 
successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of 
jobs."

   Once more, he will likely be received warily, a president who ran on a 
campaign of "America First" with suggestions of disentangling the United States 
from international pacts, now engaged in two days of pomp and policy with the 
leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada.

   "There is no doubt that this will be the most challenging G-7 summit in 
years," said Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.

   He said the group's leaders "sometimes have very different views" on topics 
such as climate change and trade, "but our role as the EU is to do everything 
to maintain the unity of the G-7 on all fronts. Most importantly unity needs to 
be maintained when it comes to defending rule-based international order."

   The White House believes that Trump has made personal breakthroughs with his 
peers, having now met one-on-one with all the leaders of G-7.

   "It's time for him to have an intimate discussion and understand their 
issues but, more importantly, for them to understand our issues," national 
economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters on Air Force One late Thursday.

   One of those relationships was on display as Trump began the day with a 
meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The president hosted Abe at 
the White House and his Mar-a-Lago resort back in February, where they appeared 
to hit it off.

   Abe was the latest world leader to publicly flatter Trump, saluting his 
visit to the Middle East and address to NATO on Thursday.

   "Unfortunately," Abe told reporters, "this time around we won't be able to 
play golf together."

   The president said he and Abe would cover many topics, including North 
Korea, which he said "is very much on our minds."

   "It's a big problem, it's a world problem, but it will be solved at some 
point. It will be solved, you can bet on that," Trump said. North Korea has 
conducted a series of recent missile tests, rattling its Pacific neighbors.

   Foreign policy will be the focus on Friday, with meetings on Syria, Libya, 
North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Other meetings over the two days will 
include discussions of global economy and climate, a meeting with small African 
nations --- Trump will be seated between the leaders of Niger and Tunisia --- 
and migration issues.

   Trade will also be a big topic, with Cohn saying the United States' guiding 
principle will be "we will treat you the way you treat us," suggesting that 
retaliatory tariffs could be imposed.

   The day will feature a welcoming ceremony and concert at the remains of an 
ancient Greek temple, as well as a relentless number of meetings, many of which 
White House aides are hoping to keep short in order to keep Trump's attention. 
What the Sicily stay will likely not offer: a news conference, as Trump appears 
set to defy presidential tradition and not hold one during the entire trip.

   The Republican president arrived in Italy fresh off delivering an 
unprecedented, personal rebuke to NATO, traveling to its gleaming new Brussels 
headquarters to lecture its leaders to their faces on the need for them to 
spend more on defense.

   "This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States," Trump 
said. "If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO 
would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of 
terrorism."

   The 28 member nations, plus soon-to-join Montenegro, will renew an old vow 
to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 
2024. Only five members meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, 
Poland and the United States, which spends more on defense than all the other 
allies combined.

   Trump refused to say he would adhere to the mutual defense pact, known as 
Article V, though the White House later claimed that his very presence 
alongside twisted World Trade Center steel --- a memorial outside NATO 
headquarters --- was evidence enough of his commitment.

   As Trump spoke, the NATO leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel 
and French President Emmanuel Marcon, stood in awkward silence. Later, as they 
took the traditional "family photo" group shot, the heads of state quietly kept 
their distance from Trump, who minutes earlier was caught on video appearing to 
push the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way to get to his spot.

   The president's remarkable public scolding of NATO came amid a backdrop of 
uncertainty in Brussels toward Trump over his past comments publicly cheering 
the United Kingdom's vote to leave the EU last summer and slamming the alliance 
during his transition as "a vehicle for Germany."

   But while Trump lectured some of the United States' strongest allies, he 
cozied up to the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia while pushing for the Arab 
world to root out extremism at home. He made deals for more than $100 billion 
in military equipment, christened a hurriedly finished counter-terrorism 
center, and was the guest of honor at a number of lavish welcoming ceremonies, 
one complete with a sword dance.

   It was a similar story in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 
warmly greeted Trump and the president reciprocated with emotional appearances 
at the Western Wall and Holocaust museum and suggested that there was an 
opening for peace with the Palestinians.


(KA)

 
 
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