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Anxious World Leaders Seek Clarity On Trump Policies

By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) – World leaders offered to work with Donald Trump when he takes over as U.S. president, but expressed anxiety over how he will handle problems from the Middle East to an assertive Russia and whether he will carry out a number of campaign threats.

Several authoritarian and right-wing leaders hailed the billionaire businessman and former TV show host, who won the leadership of the world’s most powerful country against the odds in Tuesday’s election.

China, a target of Trump’s ire during his campaign, appealed for cooperation. Mexico also struck a conciliatory tone, despite Trump’s insults to Mexican migrants and pledges to build a wall to separate the two countries. South Korea urged him not to change policy on North Korea’s nuclear tests.

Trump, who has no previous political or military experience, said after defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton that he would seek common ground, not conflict, with the United States’ allies.

In the election campaign, he voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, questioned central tenets of the NATO military alliance and suggested Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear weapons to shoulder their own defense burden.

Putin was among the first to send Trump congratulations.

Ties between Washington and Moscow have become strained over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and allegations of Russian cyber attacks featured in the election campaign.

“It is not an easy path, but we are ready to do our part and do everything to return Russian and American relations to a stable path of development,” said Putin, for whom an easing of U.S. economic sanctions would be a prize.

Among other issues causing concern among allies are Trump’s vows to undo a global agreement on climate change, ditch trade deals he says have been bad for U.S. workers, and renegotiate the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers which has led to an easing of sanctions on Iran.

Iran urged Trump to stay committed to the Iran deal. President Hassan Rouhani said the nuclear accord with six world powers could not be dismissed by one government.

UNCERTAINTY

German Chancellor Angela Merkel — denounced by Trump as “insane” for allowing more than 1 million migrants into the country last year — added a stern note in her message of congratulations which hinted at a certain unease.

“Germany and America are bound together by values – democracy, freedom, respecting the rule of law, people’s dignity regardless of their origin, the color of their skin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views,” Merkel said.

“On the basis of these values, I am offering to work closely with the future President of the United States Donald Trump.”

In Britain, where Trump’s victory had echoes of June’s referendum in which voters showed dissatisfaction with the political establishment by voting to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May said the “enduring and special relationship” between the two countries would remain intact.

But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has often expressed distaste for Trump, said many people in the United States and across the world would feel “a real sense of anxiety.”

Nigel Farage, a leader of the Brexit campaign who spoke at a Trump rally during the election campaign, tweeted: “I hand over the mantle to @RealDonaldTrump! Many congratulations. You have fought a brave campaign.”

Some European officials however took the unusual step of openly denouncing the outcome, calling it a worrying signal for liberal democracy and tolerance in the world.

“We’re realizing now that we have no idea what this American president will do,” Norbert Roettgen, the head of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said.

President Francois Hollande said France wanted to begin talks with Trump immediately to clarify his stance on international affairs.

“This American election opens a period of uncertainty,” Hollande said.

French officials had endorsed Clinton and warned that Trump’s “confused” foreign policy objectives were alarming for the rest of the world.

“The U.S. is a vital partner for France and what’s at stake is peace, the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, economic relations and the preservation of the planet,” Hollande said.

But like-minded right-wing European parties that are hoping to make inroads of their own in 2017 — a year in which Germany, France and the Netherlands hold elections, and Italy and Britain could also do so — hailed Trump’s victory.

France’s far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, said she hoped the same kind of upset would happen in France.

“The Americans gave themselves a president of their choosing and not the one that the establishment wanted them to rubber-stamp,” she said.

PARTNERS AND ALLIES

Mexican President Pena Nieto, who was criticized for receiving Trump in Mexico during the campaign, said he was ready to work with the president-elect.

“Mexico and the United States are friends, partners and allies and we should keep collaborating for the competitiveness and development of North America,” Pena Nieto said.

Trump has said he could tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that it has killed U.S. jobs, and he called Mexican immigrants rapists during his campaign.

Sounding conciliatory, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing and Washington shared responsibility for promoting global development and prosperity.

“I place great importance on the China-U.S. relationship, and look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Xi told Trump, who had pledged to take on China and to tax Chinese imports to stop currency devaluation.

South Korea expressed the hope that Trump would maintain current U.S. policy of pressuring North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests. Seoul was concerned Trump may make unpredictable proposals to North Korea, a ruling party official said, quoting top national security officials.

A Japanese government official, speaking before Trump clinched the election, urged him to send a message as soon as possible to reassure the world of the United States’ commitment to its allies.

“We are certainly concerned about the comments (Trump) has made to date about the alliance and the U.S. role in the Pacific, particularly Japan,” the Japanese official said.

In the Middle East, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who had a poor relationship with President Barack Obama, said he hoped to reach “new heights” in bilateral ties under Trump.

Obama and Netanyahu sparred over the issue of Israeli settlements, while Trump has said they should expand.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also congratulated Trump, but analysts said his rule may be profoundly negative for Palestinian aspirations.

And despite Trump’s negative rhetoric about Muslims during his campaign, including threats to ban them from the United States, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he hoped the business magnate’s election would breathe new life into U.S.-Egyptian ties.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus in Europe, Asia and the Americas, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

IMAGE: An Afghan man watches the broadcasting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results on TV in Kabul, Afghanistan November 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Hollande, Merkel Urge Clear Vision For Addressing Europe’s Weaknesses

PARIS (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that it was crucial an upcoming European Union summit, the first since Britain voted to leave the bloc, addressed the EU’s weaknesses with a plan for reforms.

Britain’s Brexit vote sent shockwaves through the European Unions long deemed by many voters to be overly bureaucratic and unresponsive to their concerns, while energizing the continent’s anti-immigration, eurosceptic parties.

“It is now about applying an agenda for Bratislava that makes clear we are determined to react together to the weaknesses, to the tasks we face,” Merkel told reporters in Paris after meeting Hollande ahead of Friday’s summit.

Hollande said Britain’s vote to divorce with the EU had triggered a crisis that threatened bloc’s very existence and pressed on the 27 member states due in the Slovak capital to establish a calendar and road-map for reforms.

Security would be one of three key themes under discussion in Bratislava, he said.

“The first priority is security … our border security, our security against external threats,” Hollande said.

Germany and France have outlined plans to deepen European military cooperation as Britain’s departure removes one of the biggest obstacles to stronger EU defense in tandem with NATO.

Merkel said France and Germany would ask the Council to pursue their proposals but added: “We want to work inclusively so all of the 27 member states should of course have the opportunity to take part and to decide on things together.”

She said an answer was needed on migration, with some people coming to Europe for economic reasons, rather than as political or war refugees. “We need to be able to protect our external borders and we of course need to jointly take responsibility on that.”

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel published on Thursday that it was imperative EU members talked with one voice.

“As soon as the Brits have determined their strategy for talks with the EU, we will be confronted with a unified British line. That must not then meet with an un-unified EU because there are certainly people in London who would like to play us off against each other and that would be fatal for the EU,” Schulz was quoted as saying.

(Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris and Michelle Martin in Berlin.; Editing by John Irish and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Photo: French President Francois Hollande (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a joint news conference ahead of the upcoming EU summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, September 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France Pays Tribute To Victims Of Paris Attacks

PARIS (Reuters) — France paid tribute on Friday to the 130 mostly young people killed while they were enjoying themselves in Paris two weeks ago by Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers in the most deadly attacks the nation has seen since World War Two.

Blue-white-and-red French flags hung from the windows of public buildings and private homes as hundreds of survivors and relatives of the dead joined political leaders for a remembrance ceremony at the military museum Les Invalides in the capital.

The militant group Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks, which targeted cafes, restaurants, a sports stadium and a rock concert. More than 350 people were wounded and nearly 100 of them remain in hospital.

Under a wintry sky, the names and ages of the 130 victims were read out. A majority were under 35 and they came from all over France and from 17 other countries.

In a poignant but defiant speech, President Francois Hollande vowed to destroy Islamic State and urged his compatriots to help combat the group simply by continuing to go to bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting events and to enjoy the simple pleasures he said the militants hated.

“I solemnly promise you all that France will do everything to defeat the army of fanatics who have committed these crimes, that she will act tirelessly to protect her children,” he said.

“The terrorists want to divide us, to oppose us, to pit us against one another. They will fail. They have the cult of death, we have the love of life,” he said.

Hollande said the Nov. 13 attacks were part of a chain stretching back to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and he noted that many other countries – including, this month alone, Mali and Tunisia – had been hit by militant groups.

Most of the assailants in the Paris attacks killed themselves using suicide vests or were killed by police but French and Belgian authorities are still hunting others suspected of involvement or possibly plotting new attacks.

Last week the French parliament backed a three-month extension of a state of emergency declared immediately after the attacks to allow security forces greater scope in combating militant Islamist groups.

France has also stepped up its aerial bombing campaign of Islamic State targets in Syria. This week, Hollande held separate talks with the leaders of the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany and Italy on how to crush the militants.

“We will defeat this enemy. Together. With our forces, those of the republic. With our arms, those of democracy. With our institutions, with international law,” a somber Hollande said.

The Nov. 13 attacks came 11 months after Islamist militants killed 17 people in Paris, most of them at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and at a kosher supermarket.

(Reporting by Brian Love and Gareth Jones; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Photo: French President Francois Hollande (R) stands in front of members of the French government, officials and guests during a ceremony to pay a national homage to the victims of the Paris attacks at Les Invalides monument in Paris, France, November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France Honors Americans, Briton Who Disarmed Train Gunman

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) — French President Francois Hollande on Monday awarded France’s highest honor, the Legion d’honneur, to three U.S. citizens and a Briton who helped disarm a machine gun-toting suspected Islamist militant on a train last week.

“Faced with the evil called terrorism there is a good, that’s humanity. You are the incarnation of that,” Hollande told the four men.

The suspect’s lawyer said on Sunday the man named by intelligence sources as Ayoub el Khazzani, 26, of Morocco, is “dumbfounded” they had him down as a suspected Islamist militant. She said he told her he only intended to rob people on board because he was hungry.

Spencer Stone, a 23-year-old U.S. airman traveling with two friends on the train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, told reporters on Sunday how he plugged the blood-spurting wound of another passenger with his fingers after himself being wounded by the attacker.

I just stuck two of my fingers in the hole, found what I thought to be the artery, pushed down and the bleeding stopped,” he said at a news conference alongside his friends, student Anthony Sadler, also 23, and National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, 22.

The man Stone helped, a Franco-American Hollande named as Mark Moogalian, remains hospitalized. U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley said he was “doing pretty well.”

Chris Norman, a 62-year-old British consultant who lives in France, was also decorated by Hollande on Monday.

Stone said another man, who is French and whose name has not been disclosed, “deserves a lot of the credit” because he was the first one to try to stop the gunman.

Stone thanked the doctors who reattached his thumb, which was almost severed by the gunman, who had been armed with a box cutter, a pistol and a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle.

According to Spanish security sources, Khazzani traveled to France in 2014 and went to Syria. French security sources said he went to Berlin airport for a flight to Istanbul on May 10 this year. Turkey is a preferred destination for would-be jihadists heading for Syria. He is on a French list of around 3,000 people who are documented as being a potential militant Islamist threat.

His father, Mohammed el Khazzani, was quoted by Spanish newspaper El Mundo as saying he had not spoken to his son since he left the Spanish southern port town of Algeciras for France in 2014 to work for a mobile phone company that fired him one month into a six-month contract.

“They are saying Ayoub is a terrorist but I simply can’t believe it,” said Khazzani, 64, a scrap merchant who lives in the poor El Saladillo district of Algeciras with his wife and some of his six children.

“Why would he want to kill anyone? It makes no sense,” he said of his son. “The only terrorism he is guilty of is terrorism for bread. He doesn’t have enough money to feed himself properly.”

France has been on high alert since January this year when 17 people died in Islamist militant attacks on a satirical newspaper and in a siege in a Jewish shop.

(Additional reporting and writing by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Adrian Croft in Madrid and Andrew Callus in Paris; Editing by Paul Simao and Dominic Evans)

Photo: French President Francois Hollande (L) awards U.S. Airman First Class Spencer Stone (C) with the Legion d’Honneur (the Legion of Honour) medal as U.S. National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos applauds during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Michel Euler/Pool