World

Angry Trump hangs up on Australian PM Turnbull

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump ripped into the Australian prime minister during a telephone call last week, The Washington Post reported, castigating a refugee accord he described yesterday as a "dumb deal".

The new US leader reportedly cut short his call abruptly to Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull after criticising the agreement to re-home people and exulting over his electoral college victory in last November's poll, according to the paper.

Australia is considered one of the US' closest allies - one of the so-called "Five Eyes" with which the US routinely shares sensitive intelligence - and one might have expected the call to be smooth sailing.

But, according to the Post, Mr Trump's assessment was the opposite.

Of his four conversations with world leaders that day, "this was the worst call by far," it quoted him as telling Mr Turnbull, shortly before he terminated the conversation.

The Australian PM demurred yesterday when asked about the report.

"I appreciate your interest, but it's better that these things - these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately," he said. "I can assure you the relationship is very strong."

The Post's account of the conversation is markedly different from the official read-out of the call provided by both governments.

Mr Turnbull said on Tuesday that Mr Trump had agreed to honour the deal struck with then-President Barack Obama to resettle an unspecified number of the 1,600 people Australia holds in offshore processing centres.

There were fears Mr Trump would rescind it after he signed an executive order last week suspending the arrival of refugees to the US for a least 120 days, and barring entry for three months to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

After the Post story broke, Mr Trump weighed in on Twitter, throwing the agreement into doubt.

"Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!" he wrote.

Reports of the Turnbull-Trump conversation came as the US and Mexican governments were denying claims that the former reality TV star had threatened to send troops into Mexico to deal with drug cartels.

Mexican journalist Dolia Estevez, citing "confidential" US and Mexican sources, said Mr Trump made the threat during an hour-long phone call to President Enrique Pena Nieto last Friday. - AFP

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