Obama can­cels Ro­drigo Duterte talks after in­sult

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has can­celled what would have been his first meet­ing with Ro­drigo Duterte, ac­cord­ing to a White House spokesman, hours after the Philip­pine leader de­scribed his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part in vul­gar terms.

Duterte called Obama a “son of a whore”, say­ing that he would not be lec­tured by the US leader on hu­man rights, ac­cord­ing to AFP news agency.

Duterte’s tirade came as he bris­tled at warn­ings he would face ques­tion­ing by the US pres­i­dent at their sched­uled meet­ing over his war against drugs in the Philip­pines, which has claimed more than 2 400 lives in just over two months.

“You must be re­spect­ful. Do not just throw away ques­tions and state­ments. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that fo­rum,” Duterte told a news con­fer­ence shortly be­fore fly­ing to Laos to at­tend a sum­mit on Mon­day.

“We will be wal­low­ing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me,” he said.

How­ever, a state­ment re­leased by the Philip­pine pres­i­dent on Tues­day ex­pressed re­gret for the tirade against his US coun­ter­part.

“While the im­me­di­ate cause was my strong com­ments to cer­tain press ques­tions that elicited con­cern and dis­tress, we also re­gret it came across as a per­sonal at­tack on the US pres­i­dent,” the state­ment said.

Duterte was due to hold a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Obama on Tues­day af­ter­noon on the side­lines of a gath­er­ing of global lead­ers hosted by the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) in Vientiane, the cap­i­tal of the Laos.

Shortly after Duterte’s com­ments, Obama had ap­peared to cast doubt on whether a meet­ing could take place with the Philip­pines pres­i­dent. Call­ing Duterte “a colour­ful guy”, Obama said he was ask­ing his staff to find out whether a meet­ing would be use­ful.

“I al­ways want to make sure if I’m hav­ing a meet­ing that it’s ac­tu­ally pro­duc­tive and we’re get­ting some­thing done,” he told re­porters.

Duterte (71) was elected in May after promis­ing to wage an un­prece­dented war on drugs.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures re­leased on Sun­day showed that, since Duterte took of­fice on June 30, more than 2 400 peo­ple have been killed in po­lice anti-drug op­er­a­tions and by sus­pected vig­i­lantes.

Speak­ing on the side­lines of the G20 sum­mit in the Chi­nese city of Hangzhou, Obama said Wash­ing­ton recog­nised that drugs were a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem for the Philip­pines.

But he also in­sisted that he would not shy away from rais­ing con­cerns about the way the is­sue was be­ing han­dled un­der the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The is­sue of how we ap­proach fight­ing crime and drug traf­fick­ing is a se­ri­ous one for all of us. We’ve got to do it the right way,” Obama said.

“Un­doubt­edly, if and when we have a meet­ing, this is some­thing that’s go­ing to be brought up. And my ex­pec­ta­tion, my hope, is that it could be dealt with con­struc­tively.”

Duterte has pre­vi­ously an­grily re­jected crit­i­cism from the Catholic Church, hu­man rights groups, politi­cians and the United Na­tions.

“More peo­ple will be killed, plenty will be killed un­til the last pusher is out of the streets. Un­til the [last] drug man­u­fac­turer is killed, we will con­tinue and I will con­tinue,” he said on Mon­day.

Duterte in­sisted he would not take or­ders from the US, a for­mer colo­nial ruler of the Philip­pines, and did not care about how he was per­ceived.

The mav­er­ick pres­i­dent has quickly earned a rep­u­ta­tion for mak­ing of­fen­sive com­ments about his crit­ics. — Al Jazeera

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