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EU's Tusk says with friends like Trump, who needs enemies?


SOFIA (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has "rid Europe of all illusions" by quitting the Iran nuclear deal and seeking trade disputes, the European Union chairman said on Wednesday, underlining the depth of transatlantic discord.

The EU's 28 leaders are gathering in the Bulgarian capital for a dinner discussion on Wednesday on how to salvage the Tehran accord and European business dealings with Iran, from Trump's sanctions to how to avoid a trade war in an escalating tariff dispute with the United States.[L5N1SM8S6]

Tusk said the EU must be more united than ever before to face off against Trump's "capricious assertiveness".

"Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?" Tusk told a news conference.

"But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump. Because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm."

European leaders are troubled by Trump's "America first" rhetoric and inconsistent statements on NATO and the European Union. Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord and the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran threaten Europe's own foreign policy, which was long complementary to Washington's.

"Europe must do everything in its power to protect, in spite of today's mood, the transatlantic bond. But at the same time we must be prepared for those scenarios, where we will have to act on our own," said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

Trump's moving of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem this week has also upset many in the EU, though the EU has failed to condemn the move squarely over opposition from the Czech Republic and Hungary that hold a strongly pro-Israeli stance.

French President Emmanuel Macron has tried to charm Trump but that failed to prevent Trump from abandoning the Iran deal last week, which seeks to stop Tehran from obtaining an atomic weapon.

The European Union and the United States have been the closest of allies, working together also via NATO. But Trump has also lambasted his European peers by not spending enough on defence, raising doubts among many in Europe about his commitment to NATO and the broader European security.

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke, Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

   

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