Trump berates NATO for dodging defence dues

The billionaire leader used the highest possible profile platform of his first NATO summit in Brussels to accuse members of the alliance of owing “massive amounts of money”.

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Unveiling a memorial to the 9/11 attacks at NATO’s new headquarters, Trump also urged the alliance to get tougher on tackling terrorism and immigration in the wake of the Manchester attack.

Allies who had hoped to hear Trump publicly declare his commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defence guarantee were left disappointed as he made no mention of it and instead castigated them on their home turf.

“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defence,” the president said as fellow leaders looked on grim faced.

“I’m not 100% sure we have a common position on #Russia” #EU President @eucopresident welcomes #POTUS @realDonaldTrump to #Brussels @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/8qm40TdXUK

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 25, 2017

Trump said that even if they met the commitment they made in 2014 to allocate two percent of GDP to defence, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges NATO faces.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump added.

The diatribe stirred memories of his campaign trail comments branding NATO “obsolete” and threatening that states that did not pay their way would not necessarily be defended, which deeply alarmed allies.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly asked at a closing news conference about Trump’s comments but insisted that while the president might have been “blunt” his message was unchanged — the allies had to do more.

In dedicating the 9/11 Article 5 memorial, the president was “sending a strong signal” of his commitment to NATO, Stoltenberg said.

“And it is not possible to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.”

RelatedJulie Bishop attends NATO

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Trump said the bombing of a pop concert in the British city of Manchester on Monday, claimed by the Islamic State group, showed that “terrorism must be stopped in its tracks”.

“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.

The surprising focus on immigration echoed another key feature of Trump’s campaign, which included a vow to build a border wall with Mexico, a measure derided in Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.

“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.

Trump’s rebuke came despite NATO saying it would formally join the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, despite reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.

Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO’s six-decade history — after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Analyst Thomas Wright of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Trump’s failure to publicly declare this was “shocking and damaging”.

Brussels presented Trump with the first problems of a landmark foreign trip, including tense moments with the head of the European Union and with key ally Britain.

Trump announced a review of “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks over the Manchester bombing, in which 22 people died, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.

He later discussed the row with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who had condemned the leaks that left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.

Trump meets wary NATO and EU in Brussels

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EU Russia tensions

A meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker did not go smoothly either, despite hopes it could clear the bad blood caused by Trump backing Britain’s Brexit vote.

During his meeting with the two top EU officials, Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States, Der Spiegel reported.

“The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to the German weekly’s online edition.

“See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he reportedly said.

Tusk had earlier said there were differences on climate change and trade but above all Russia.

“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Tusk, a former Polish premier who grew up protesting against Soviet domination of his country.

Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.

Trump also held talks with new French President Emmanuel Macron, with the pair appearing to engage in a brief yet bizarre battle to see who could shake hands the hardest.

Trump came to Brussels direct from a “fantastic” meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

RELATED

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner ‘willing to co-operate’ with Russia probe

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is willing to co-operate with federal investigators looking into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, his lawyer says.

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The statement from Jamie Gorelick was issued on Thursday amid reports the FBI was investigating meetings Kushner had in December with Russian officials.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the House oversight committee chairman Jason Chaffetz asked the FBI to turn over more documents about former director James Comey’s interactions with the White House and Justice Department, including materials dating to 2013, when Comey was sworn in as FBI director under president Barack Obama.

The FBI and the oversight committee – as well as several other congressional panels – are looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump calls Russia probe a ‘witch hunt’

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Earlier, officials confirmed that Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is a key person of interest in the FBI’s ongoing Russia probe.

The activities of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner have come under FBI scrutiny as part of the probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, US media reported Thursday.

Although it is unclear whether Kushner is a main focus of the probe, he is under investigation for the “extent and nature” of his interaction with Russian officials, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

NBC News, citing unnamed US officials, also reported that the FBI is looking at Kushner but emphasized that although investigators believe he has “significant information relevant to their inquiry,” it does not mean they suspect him of a crime.

The news is sure to rankle Trump, who was in Italy for a Group of Seven summit, accompanied by his top aides including Kushner. 

Kushner held meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and a banker from Moscow in December, the Post said.

The banker, Sergei Gorkov, is chairman of VneshEconomBank, a state bank under US sanctions since July 2014.

Kushner initially failed to declare the meetings on forms to obtain a security clearance to serve in the White House.

His lawyer later said it was a mistake, telling the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he would amend the forms.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is the only current White House official known to be considered a key figure in the probe, which is targeting other members of Trump’s campaign team.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys, said in a statement.

“He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

‘Witch hunt’?

The Post reported last week that the Russia investigation had been extended to a top White House official as a “significant person of interest.”

But NBC noted that Kushner was not considered to be in the same category as either former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort or sacked national security advisor Michael Flynn, who are considered “subjects” of the probe.

Investigators are looking into possible financial crimes in addition to possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials, the paper reported on Thursday.

The probe is headed by former FBI director Robert Mueller, appointed special counsel with broad powers to investigate Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign after the president sacked FBI director James Comey, who was heading the investigation, earlier this month.

Comey’s firing, together with Trump’s reported repeated efforts to persuade senior politicians, justice and intelligence officials to help push back against the probe, have brought accusations that he is obstructing the investigation.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, amid accusations from US intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a sweeping campaign to tilt the vote in the Republican’s favor.

The president last week declared himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” in American political history.

This week, former CIA director John Brennan revealed that intelligence chiefs had been looking into suspicious contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials since mid-2016.

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UK hunts for bomber’s network as Trump vows to investigate leaks

London reacted furiously after sensitive details about the probe into Monday’s suicide attack, which targeted young concert goers and killed 22 people, appeared in the US press.

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And as more children were named as victims of the massacre, police carried out fresh arrests and raids.

With the row over intelligence-sharing escalating, a shellshocked Britain held a minute’s silence to remember the victims of the latest Islamic State-claimed atrocity to hit Europe.

After bowing their heads in silence, the grieving crowd in Manchester’s St Ann’s Square broke into a spontaneous, gentle rendition of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by the city’s own Britpop band Oasis.

Manchester crowd sings “Don’t Look Back in Anger”

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It was a message of defiance three days after Manchester-born Salman Abedi’s attack on young fans attending a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande.

“It’s like your own family just passed away, it’s just so, so sad,” 69-year-old Carmel McLaughlan told AFP, standing next to the sea of flowers filling the square.

Queen visits blast victims in hospital

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‘Very wicked’

As the nation mourned, Queen Elizabeth II visited children injured in the attack at a hospital in the northwestern English city.

“It’s dreadful. Very wicked to target that sort of thing,” she told Evie Mills, 14, and her parents.

Some 75 people are still being treated in hospital, including 23 in critical condition, medical officials said.

Twelve of the injured are under 16.

RelatedLeaks ‘deeply troubling’

With investigators pushing ahead with the probe into the attack, British authorities were left “furious” by repeated leaks of material shared with their US counterparts that they said undermined the investigation.

In Brussels for a NATO summit on Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May confronted Trump over the issue.

“She expressed the view that the intelligence sharing relationship we have with the US is hugely important and valuable, but that the information that we share should be kept secure,” May’s spokesman said.

Trump, who led NATO allies in paying respects to the victims, slammed the leaks as “deeply troubling”.

“If appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a White House statement.

Images obtained by The New York Times newspaper showed a detonator Abedi was said to have carried in his left hand, shrapnel including nuts and screws and the shredded remains of a blue backpack.

Manchester police stopped passing information to Washington on their investigation but intelligence sharing later resumed, according to national anti-terrorism chief Mark Rowley.

“Having received fresh assurances, we are now working closely with our key partners around the world,” he said.

UK observes a minute’s silence to honour Manchester victims

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Abedi ‘wanted revenge’

University dropout Abedi, 22, grew up in a Libyan family that reportedly fled to Manchester to escape the now-fallen regime of Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

His father Ramadan and younger brother Hashem have been detained in Libya, with officials there saying the brother was aware of the planned attack.

They said both brothers belonged to the Islamic State group, while the father once belonged to a now-disbanded militant group with alleged ties to Al-Qaeda.

Libya said it was working closely with Britain to identify possible “terrorist networks” involved.

Libyan officials said Abedi’s brother Hashem had been under surveillance for six weeks and that investigators had information he was planning “a terrorist attack” in Tripoli.

A relative told AFP that Abedi had travelled to Manchester from Libya four days before the bombing.

German police said he made a brief stopover at Duesseldorf airport, while a Turkish official said he had transited through Istanbul airport without saying where he was travelling from.

A source close to the family said Abedi wanted to avenge the murder in Manchester last year of a friend of Libyan descent, with his sister Jomana Abedi also telling The Wall Street Journal newspaper that he might have been driven by a desire for revenge.

“I think he saw children — Muslim children — dying everywhere, and wanted revenge. He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge,” she said.

The bombing was the latest in a series of IS-claimed attacks in Europe that have coincided with an offensive on the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq by US, British and other Western forces.

Eight in British custody

A British official confirmed Abedi had been on the intelligence radar before the massacre.

The MI5 domestic security service is managing around 500 active investigations, involving some 3,000 “subjects of interest”, the senior government ministry source said.

“Abedi was one of a larger pool of former SOIs whose risk remained subject to review by MI5 and its partners,” he said.

Police announced two new arrests on Thursday, bringing the total to eight people in custody in Britain.

Officers also briefly evacuated people from an area in Wigan, a town in Greater Manchester, as they searched a house in connection with the probe and a bomb disposal unit was deployed.

Residents were later allowed to return.

Britain’s terror threat assessment has been hiked to “critical”, the highest level, meaning an attack is considered imminent.

Armed troops have been sent to guard key sites, a rare sight in mainland Britain. Armed police were also deployed on trains for the first time ever.

Monday’s attack was the deadliest in Britain since 2005 when four Islamist suicide bombers attacked London’s transport system, killing 52 people.

The bombing occurred just over two weeks before a snap general election set for June 8 for which campaigning is set to resume in earnest on Friday after being suspended in the wake of the attack.

‘My son isn’t the Manchester attacker’

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G7 leaders brace for clash with Trump

Leaders of the world’s rich nations are bracing themselves for contentious talks with Donald Trump at a G7 summit after the US president lambasted NATO allies for not spending more on defence and accused Germany of “very bad” trade policies.

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Trump’s confrontational remarks in Brussels, on the eve of the two-day summit in the Mediterranean resort town of Taormina in Sicily, cast a pall over a meeting at which America’s partners had hoped to coax him into softening his stances on trade and climate change.

The summit was to start on Friday with a ceremony at an ancient Greek theatre perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, before the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US begin talks on terrorism, Syria, North Korea and the global economy.

“We will have a very robust discussion on trade and we will be talking about what free and open means,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters on Thursday.

He also predicted “fairly robust” talks on whether Trump should honour a US commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Trump, who dismissed man-made global warming a “hoax” during his election campaign, is not expected to decide at the summit whether he will stick with the Paris deal, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama.

Even if a decision is not forthcoming, European leaders have signalled they will push Trump hard on the Paris emissions deal.

The summit, being held near Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna, is the final leg of a nine-day tour for Trump – his first foreign trip since becoming president – that started in the Middle East.

On Thursday in Brussels, with NATO leaders standing alongside him, he accused members of the military alliance of owing “massive amounts of money” to the US and NATO – even though allied contributions are voluntary.

According to German media reports, he also condemned Germany for “very bad” trade policies in meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, signalling he would take steps to limit the sales of German cars in the US.

EU officials declined to confirm the reports.

Trump will not be the only G7 newcomer.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and British Prime Minister Theresa May are attending the elite club for the first time.

May is expected to leave a day early following Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people.

50 years on, 1967 referendum campaigner mentors next generation

Ngarrindjerri woman Shirley Peisley was 26 years old when she hit the campaign trail for the 1967 referendum.

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She remembers handing out campaign material that led to Australia’s most successful referendum.

“We got to Canberra and I was just amazed by the number of people that were there,” she said.

“[I was] handing out a lot of how to vote cards and they had this big ‘vote yes’ for Aborigines made out of cardboard and that’s what I had and what I was able to hold up in front of the politicians.”

The 1967 referendum made two important changes to Australia’s Constitution: it allowed Indigenous people to be counted in the Census and also gave the Commonwealth power to make beneficial laws for them. 

More than 90 per cent of Australians voted ‘yes’ in a referendum that became known as ‘the Aboriginal question’.

50 years on: Ngarrindjerri woman Shirley Peisley was a campaigner for the 1967 referendum.Rachael Hocking/SBS

“When you have huge numbers of people agreeing on something, that does make a huge impact,” Aunty Shirley said.

Constitutional expert Professor George Williams said the 1967 referendum was a grassroots campaign.

“It tapped into a very strong community sentiment about fairness, about justice and the campaign was not one driven by politicians, it was a community-based, grassroots campaign,” he said.

But he says there is still a hole in Australia’s Constitution to be filled.

“It left unfinished business. It didn’t insert any symbolic or positive recognition of Aboriginal people in the constitution,” he said.

READ MORE

That is why Aunty Shirley is mentoring fellow South Australian Ngarrindjeri man Luke Taylor.

Mr Taylor works for Recognise, the campaign to change the constitution again to acknowledge Indigenous people in Australia’s founding document.

He is inspired by Aunty Shirley and the other campaigners of 1967.

“They took some risks stepping out like they did. It wasn’t normal for Indigenous people to be doing that back then,” he said.

It’s campaigners like Aunty Shirley who make him work tirelessly to move Australia to a constitutional recognition, he said.

“We’re never going to get the constitution thrown out, we’re never going to get full control of our country back, so let’s work with what we got to make that difference,” HE SAID.

READ MOREThe 1967 Referendum

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