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SOFIA, BUL­GARIA— The Euro­pean Union’s top of­fi­cial on Wed­nes­day launched a sting­ing at­tack on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, slam­ming his “capri­cious as­sertive­ness” and say­ing the US leader acted more like an en­emy than a friend.

EU Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk urged lead­ers meet­ing in Bul­garia to form a “united Euro­pean front” against Trump’s with­drawal from the Ira­nian nu­clear deal and his

move to im­pose trade tar­iffs on Europe.

Tusk even com­pared the US ad­min­is­tra­tion to Europe’s tra­di­tional foes Rus­sia and China as he launched his broad­side be­fore a din­ner of the 28 lead­ers in Sofia where they dis­cussed the is­sue.

“Look­ing at the lat­est de­ci­sions of Pres­i­dent Trump, some­one could even think with friends like that, who needs ene­mies,” Tusk told re­porters.

“But frankly speak­ing, Europe should be grate­ful to Pres­i­dent Trump, be­cause thanks to him we have got rid of all il­lu­sions,” Tusk said.

“He has made us re­al­ize that if you need a help­ing hand you will find one at the end of your arm,” he added.

Transat­lantic rift

The transat­lantic rift has hi­jacked the agenda of a sum­mit on Thurs­day at which the EU lead­ers will meet their Balkan coun­ter­parts in a bid to foster closer ties and keep Rus­sia out of their back­yard.

Euro­pean min­is­ters met a top Ira­nian of­fi­cial in Brus­sels on Tues­day in a bid to save the Ira­nian nu­clear ac­cord after Trump de­cided to pull out.

Mean­while, the Euro­pean Union is still try­ing to win ex­emp­tions from tar­iffs on steel and alu­minium ex­ports.

Tusk called for more unity in the di­vided Euro­pean Union, which is set to lose Bri­tain as a mem­ber next year, to face the grow­ing chal­lenges.

“Be­sides the tra­di­tional po- lit­i­cal chal­lenges such as the rise of China or the ag­gres­sive stance of Rus­sia, we are wit­ness­ing to­day a new phe­nom­e­non: the capri­cious as­sertive­ness of the Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Tusk said.

‘Only real al­ter­na­tive’

“I have no doubt that in the new global game, Europe will ei­ther be one of the ma­jor play­ers, or a pawn. This is the only real al­ter­na­tive,” he added.

After the talks, a Euro­pean source told Agence FrancePresse (AFP) the lead­ers agreed on a “united EU ap­proach” on the Iran deal, in­clud­ing con­tin­ued sup­port for the agree­ment if Tehran abides by it.

They also agreed to “ini­ti­ate work to pro­tect Euro­pean com­pa­nies neg­a­tively af­fected by the US de­ci­sion,” which in­volves Wash­ing­ton reim­pos­ing sanc­tions on the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram.

“The EU will con­tinue fight­ing for a rules-based in­ter­na­tional sys­tem de­spite re­cent de­ci­sions on cli­mate change, tar­iffs and Iran,” the source said after the lead­ers met over din­ner in Sofia.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, whose coun­tries are the sig­na­to­ries to the Iran deal along with the United States, Rus­sia and China, gave their views on the sit­u­a­tion to their col­leagues, he said.

Ties that bind

Merkel, how­ever, said ear­lier that Europe had no choice but to stick with the ties that have bound it to the United States since World War II.

“De­spite all the dif­fi­cul­ties we have th­ese days, the transat­lantic re­la­tions are and will re­main of out­stand­ing im­por- tance,” Merkel told the Ger­man par­lia­ment.

On Trump’s de­ci­sion to im­pose tar­iffs on steel and alu­minium im­ports, a move the Euro­pean Union has warned could spark a trade war, the lead­ers also pre­sented a united front.

They backed plans to of­fer con­ces­sions if the United States gives Europe a per­ma­nent ex­emp­tion from the tar­iffs, but they added that the “Euro­pean Union will not ne­go­ti­ate with a gun at its head.”

Tusk said ear­lier that it was “ab­surd to even think that the Euro­pean Union could be a threat to the United States” in terms of trade.

Be­hind their mes­sage of unity and firm­ness, some mem­ber states seem open to tol­er­at­ing lim­ited quo­tas from the United States on met­als im­ports while oth­ers want a harder line, diplo­mats said.

Gaza vi­o­lence

The EU lead­ers were also due to dis­cuss the deaths of dozens of Pales­tini­ans in Gaza after Trump moved the US Em­bassy to Jerusalem, in an­other move that the Euro­peans had strongly op­posed.

The Euro­pean Union has called for “ut­most re­straint” after Is­raeli forces killed 60 Pales­tini­ans dur­ing clashes and protests along the Gaza bor­der against the open­ing of the US Em­bassy in Jerusalem, in the con­flict’s blood­i­est day in years.

But there are di­vi­sions over Trump’s move within the Euro­pean Union it­self, with the Czech Repub­lic, Hun­gary and Ro­ma­nia hav­ing re­cently blocked an EU state­ment slam­ming the US de­ci­sion.

Wed­nes­day’s din­ner will be fol­lowed by a sum­mit on Thurs­day where EU lead­ers will meet their coun­ter­parts from the Balkan na­tions of Al­ba­nia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Mon­tene­gro, Mace­do­nia and Ser­bia.


CAPRI­CIOUS AS­SERTIVE­NESS EU Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk (left) says the world is wit­ness­ing to­day a new phe­nom­e­non—the capri­cious as­sertive­ness of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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