Fri, Dec 01, 2017 - Page 1 News List

UK downplays row with Trump over tweets

AFP, LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump talk during a meeting on Sept. 20 at the Palace Hotel in New York City on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Photo: AFP

The British government yesterday sought to play down an extraordinary row with US President Donald Trump after he castigated British Prime Minister Theresa May for rebuking him over anti-Muslim tweets, even as individual politicians expressed outrage.

Plunging headlong into a high-profile spat with one of the US’ closest partners, Trump suggested May focus on defending Britain rather than criticizing him after he retweeted anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right group.

“@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” Trump tweeted late on Wednesday, after initially sending the same message to the wrong Theresa May.

May’s spokesman had earlier condemned as “wrong” his decision to retweet the videos from Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen, and numerous British lawmakers called for the government to cancel plans for Trump to make a state visit.

Called to make an emergency statement in the House of Commons yesterday, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Britain First was “an extremist organization” that used “hateful narratives” to stoke community tensions.

While Trump had erred in promoting the group, she urged lawmakers to “look at the wider picture,” saying the UK’s close intelligence cooperation with the US had “undoubtedly saved British lives.”

May’s spokesman also emphasized that the US was “our closest, most trusted ally. We continue to work together on a huge range of very important issues.”

However, he rejected criticism of May’s record, saying that as prime minister and former home secretary — and after dealing with a string of terror attacks this year — she was “fully focused on dealing with extremism.”

May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump following his inauguration in January, keen to encourage the much vaunted UK-US “special relationship,” and offered him a state visit to Britain.

However, the controversy over the invitation has only grown, with opposition led by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Khan yesterday said that it was “increasingly clear that any official visit at all from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed.”

He said Trump’s actions were “a betrayal of the special relationship between our two countries.”

Trump drew fierce condemnation for retweeting three incendiary anti-Muslim videos posted by Fransen.

In a highly unusual step, the Dutch embassy in Washington criticized Trump over one of the videos falsely claiming to show a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy on crutches.

“@realDonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law,” it said.

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