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Trump congratulates Putin, summit on cards

Moscow, Russia—US President Donald Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin Tuesday on his re-election, as the leaders raised the prospect of a summit in the near future — while sidestepping both the issue of election meddling and a spy attack that has rocked Moscow’s relations with the West.
Trump told reporters at the White House he had spoken with Putin, two days after the Russian strongman sailed to a fourth term as president, and with ties strained by the Cold War-style intrigue over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain.
“I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on his electoral victory,” the US leader said.
“The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the not-too-distant future,” he added.
In calling Putin, Trump ignored explicit advice from his national security advisers not to do so, The Washington Post reported, quoting officials familiar with the call.
This warning included a section in his briefing materials in capital letters that read “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” the Post said.  
According to a Kremlin statement, the two leaders also stressed the importance of joint efforts to limit an arms race and boost economic cooperation.
“On the whole, the conversation was constructive and business-like,” the Kremlin said, adding that its goal was to help the two countries “overcome the problems that had accumulated in the Russian-US relations”.
Russia is under pressure from London and its allies to explain how its former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned on British soil, with a nerve agent the UK says is Soviet-designed.
Moscow has denied being involved.
Although the nerve attack has topped global headlines for weeks, it did not come up during the leaders’ conversation, according to both the Kremlin and White House.
“I don’t believe that was discussed in today’s call,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Nor did they address Washington’s imposition last week of a new round of sanctions against Moscow designed to punish Russians responsible for attempts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.
Nor did they discuss the questions that have been raised over the weekend poll in Russia.
“The focus was to talk about areas of shared interests,” Sanders said.
      ‘Sham elections’
Those shared interests, according to the Kremlin, included the crises in Ukraine and Syria, and ways of “developing practical cooperation” in various spheres including the fight against terrorism.
Pyongyang’s nuclear program was on the agenda as Trump pushes forward with plans for a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Satisfaction has been expressed with a certain decrease in tensions around the Korean peninsula,” the Kremlin added.
The leaders also paid “special attention” to “working out the issue of holding a possible meeting at the highest level.”
In the aftermath of an election that appears to have had significant flaws, a prominent American critic of Putin — and of Trump himself — offered a stinging denunciation of the US commander in chief’s call.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” said US Senator John McCain, who is home in Arizona battling cancer.
“And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”
The White House had earlier indicated that no call with Putin was planned, as the Russian leader played down talk of a rift.
On Sunday, Putin secured a landslide victory in a presidential election that saw him return to the Kremlin with a record vote share of 76.66 percent.
The Kremlin on Tuesday released a list of those who had sent congratulatory messages — including the leaders of Greece, Germany, Iran, the Czech Republic, Finland, Syria and North Korea.
Western leaders were slow to congratulate Putin as monitors reported ballot stuffing and other alleged cases of fraud, though fewer irregularities were reported than in previous years.
Putin said Monday he would address disputes with the West but stressed that international relations were a two-way street.
“From our side, we will do all we can so that the disputes with our partners be resolved by political and diplomatic means,” he said.
“It goes without saying that not everything depends on us — as with love, both sides have to be involved, otherwise there can be no love at all.”
  US can’t expect RP backing
        in new wars—Rody
Meanwhile, despite President Duterte and US President Donald Trump’s friendly ties, the United States should not expect any backing from the Philippines if it sets up new wars.
This is what the Chief Executive asserted yesterday at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) graduation rites in Silang, Cavite, expressing anew his gripes on America’s atrocities when the Philippines was still its colony.
“I am addressing America right now. Whatever expeditions that you will conduct, any wars that you will fight in any other countries, count us out,” Mr. Duterte said.
“We have not benefited anything all these years of sacrifice, except brutality and agony,” he added.
Mr. Duterte’s statement appears to defy the 67-year-old US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) which dictates that both nations would support each other if they were to be attacked by external parties.
During a trip in Beijing in 2016, the President said he wants to end Manila’s political and military ties with Washington due to former US President Barack Obama’s critical approach on his war on illegal drugs.
In other speaking engagements, the Chief Executive even hinted at reviewing the Philippines’ other military agreements with the US such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Without explicitly stating his administration’s independent foreign policy, the President said that he does not want the Philippines to be utilized by stronger allies when wartime comes.
“We will stand on our own... We will never beg for any help. Sometimes it could mean really the dignity of the people,” Mr. Duterte said.
“We have been enslaved by two countries in succession: Spaniards for 400 years and Americans for 50 years. That’s enough. You have had your fill. Do not ask for more,” he added.
The President also dug up anew Washington’s negative reputation for inciting wars in Gulf states.
“You stole all natural resources. You stole the oil of the Arab countries, divided it arbitrarily to a nation and now you keep on profiting and sucking their oil and there is trouble everywhere,” he said.
Mr. Duterte’s remark came a day after the 15th anniversary of America’s invasion of Iraq on the premise of its former President Saddam Hussein’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction” that was inexistent.
The American assault on Iraq has been among Mr. Duterte’s ace cards in unleashing diatribes against the US. Ted Tuvera with AFP

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