News

Aus PM bears brunt of Trump's
fury at 'dumb' refugee deal

2017-02-02

PTI

Washington/Canberra, Feb 2: The first phone call between Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has turned out to be a diplomatic disaster after the US President went public to describe an Obama-era agreement with Canberra to accept 1,250 refugees a "dumb deal."

The Washington Post reported that Trump called the conversation with Turnbull "the worst by far" of his calls with world leaders that day, and cut it short after 25 minutes.

During Trump's call with Turnbull last Saturday, the US President objected to an agreement over America receiving refugees, the report said.

The disagreement came as the two leaders discussed an agreement, reached under the Obama administration, for the US to accept 1,250 refugees from Australia who are living in offshore detention centres on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Many of them are from the seven countries affected by Trump's recent travel ban. Trump on Friday also suspended the entry of all refugees for 120 days, along with indefinitely suspending the entry of Syrian refugees.

US media reports say Trump insisted it was a very bad deal for the US to take 2,000 refugees and that one of them was going to be the "next Boston bomber".

Turnbull told Trump several times the agreement was for 1,250 refugees, not 2,000.

Trump is reported to have expressed concern as to how this agreement from President Barack Obama's administration would go forward given his executive order the day before temporarily suspending the US refugee programme.

An angry Trump abruptly ended the call because he was unhappy, CNN quoted a source as saying.

Later, Trump tweeted, "Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!"       In Canberra, Turnbull attempted to keep some semblance of diplomacy, declining to elaborate on details of the call.

"Look, I'm not going to comment on a conversation between myself and the President of the United States other than what we have said publicly, and you can surely understand the reasons for that," he said.

When asked about Trump's tweet labeling the agreement brokered with Obama's administration a "dumb deal," the Australian premier said, while the deal may not have been one Trump would have done or considered a "good deal," the President and his administration have committed to honour it.

Leading Australian newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald commented that Trump's behaviour "came as a shock for many in Australia and overseas that Mr Trump would publicly create waves with such a strong ally."

"However, the tweet follows Mr Trump's established behaviour on social media since he was elected," it said.

The phone call between Trump and Turnbull was one of four the US president had with world leaders, including Russia's Vladimir Putin last Saturday.

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