Donald Trump blasts Turnbull over refugee deal in 'worst' phone call

Washington: US President Donald Trump has sparked a fresh diplomatic row — this time with Australia — by branding a refugee deal with the country as "dumb", days after holding a heated conversation with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Senior US officials said on Wednesday that during the call on 28 January, Trump blasted Turnbull over the refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it, the Washington Post reported.

Trump also told Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day, including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, and that "this was the worst call by far".

Australian government officials, who said the Post's account of the call was "substantially accurate", described the conversation as "robust" and admitted it was "shorter than expected", ABC News reported.

"This is the worst deal ever," Trump fumed during the call, as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the US would honour a deal made with the Obama administration to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention centre off the country's coast at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, according to the Post.

Malcolm Turnbull. Reuters

Malcolm Turnbull. Reuters

Trump, who on 27 January signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim majority countries, complained that he was "going to get killed" politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the "next Boston bombers".

During the call, Trump was joined by chief strategist Steve Bannon, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

At one point, Turnbull suggested that the two leaders move on from their impasse over refugees to discuss the conflict in Syria and other pressing foreign issues.

But Trump kept his focus on the issue and said: "I don't want these people."

He also repeatedly mis-stated the number of refugees called for in the agreement as 2,000 rather than 1,250, according to the officials.

Finally, Trump ended the call, making it far shorter than his conversations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Francois Hollande, according to the report.

The US President returned to the topic late Wednesday night, writing in a message on Twitter: "Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!"

Australia, according to the report, is one of America's staunchest allies. They share intelligence and have fought together in a number of wars, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Turnbull, on Thursday, refused to comment on reports of the conversation. He said conversations with world leaders are conducted "candidly, frankly, privately", but stressed Australia's solid relationship with the US was still in place.

"I can assure you the relationship is very strong," he said.

Updated Date: Feb 02, 2017 19:31 PM

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