Macron, in Israel for Holocaust memorial, warns of ‘dark shadow’ of anti-Semitism

By John Irish

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday France was determined to combat the hatred and intolerance that have fueled a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in his country as he met Holocaust survivors during a visit to Israel.

Macron is one of dozens of world leaders attending events at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem to mark the 75-year anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

“The dark shadow of anti-Semitism is being reborn,” Macron told members of the roughly 100,000 French-Israeli citizens.

“Anti-Semitism is back. It is here and its cortege of intolerance and hate is here. France won’t accept.”

“I responded to the call to come to Yad Vashem to say this shall never happen again. It’s a battle that is never won,” Macron said. “My determination to act on this is total.”

Earlier on Thursday, Macron met French survivors of the Holocaust at a memorial near Jerusalem to some 76,000 Jews who were arrested in France during World War Two and transported in terrible conditions in railway boxcars to death camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

In 1995 France’s then-president, Jacques Chirac, officially acknowledged for the first time French complicity in the wartime deportations. But it was only in 2009 that France’s highest court recognized the state’s responsibility.

A survey published on Tuesday by French think-tank Fondapol and the American Jewish Committee found that 70 percent of Jews living in France today had been victims of anti-Semitism.

France has Europe’s biggest Jewish community – around 550,000 – and anti-Semitic acts have risen by 70 percent in each of the last two years. More than 500 were reported in 2018 alone.

Last month, scores of Jewish graves were found desecrated in a cemetery in eastern France, hours before lawmakers adopted a resolution equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

“UNCERTAIN FUTURE”

Commentators have blamed the surge in anti-Semitic attacks on incitement by Islamist preachers, others on the rise of anti-Zionism – opposition to the existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

Macron and the French survivors of the Holocaust were joined by young college students at a solemn ceremony at the Roglit memorial, west of Jerusalem, to remember the French Jews deported between 1942-1944.

Serge Klarsfeld, an 84-year-old Nazi hunter, welcomed the participation of Macron and the young people in the ceremony.

“Your presence today with the education minister and the children from the banlieues (suburbs) who are bravely engaged in studying the Shoah and drawing the consequences touches us deeply and allows us to look with hope toward an uncertain future,” said Klarsfeld.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Gareth Jones)

French unions take to streets in make-or-break pension protest

By Elizabeth Pineau and Sophie Louet

PARIS (Reuters) – French trade unions disrupted rail services, cut power output and brought demonstrators onto the streets in cities across France on Thursday in a make-or-break push to force President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his planned pension reform.

The country’s hard-left unions rallied supporters hoping to regain momentum at a time participation in a 36-day long public sector strike wanes and opinion polls show public backing for the industrial action dropping.

Police fired teargas at protesters in Nantes, western France, and in Paris, where demonstrators hurled projectiles at officers in brief skirmishes and trailed smoke flares.

“Nothing is lost. The ball is in the government’s camp. Either they listen, or they govern against the people’s will,” hardline CGT union boss Philippe Martinez told reporters. “I am sceptical about the government’s willingness to talk.”

Former investment banker Macron wants to streamline France’s unwieldy pension system and incentivise the French to stay in work longer to pay for some of the most generous retirement benefits in the industrialised world.

The proposed reform would be the biggest overhaul of the system since World War Two and is central to the president’s drive to make the French labour force more flexible and more competitive globally.

He says the myriad special benefits handed out to different types of worker deter mobility within the job market, especially within the public sector.

If Macron succeeds in defeating the unions – he has already stared them down over reform of state-run SNCF railways and an easing of labour laws – he will strengthen his hand to embark on further pro-business reforms as he eyes re-election in 2022.

The strike has hit transport in Paris the hardest and commuters on Thursday again grappled with skeleton services on suburban and metro lines. Power sector walkouts saw electricity production fall by about a 10th.

PUBLIC SERVICES

Rail workers and teachers, lawyers and nurses railed against a president they accuse of turning a deaf ear to the street. Some waved banners reading “Day 36 and we aren’t giving up”; others collected donations to help compensate striking workers for lost salaries.

French employees receive pensions through a system divided into dozens of separate schemes. Macron wants a single “points” system to treat contributions from all workers from the public and private sectors equally.

Public sector unions argue this amounts to an attack on hard-earned benefits that help compensate for salaries below those in the private sector.

“This reform would herald the end of public services in France,” lamented teacher Antoine Rouilly in the southwestern city of Toulouse. “If there are no retirement perks, there’s no reason to stay in the public sector.”

While the strikes are the longest running in decades, they have failed to paralyse France in the way achieved by a wave of industrial action in 1995 that forced a government U-turn from which the prime minister never recovered.

Nonetheless, in the first pointer on the strike’s impact economic sentiment, consumer confidence fell sharply in December and retailers, hoteliers and restaurateurs complain of a sharp fall in revenue.

The government’s strategy is to pick off individual sectors with bespoke concessions, raising questions over prospects for ending up with a single system, and seek a compromise with the reform-minded CFDT union.

The CFDT opposes the government’s plan to financially penalise people who stop working before 64, two years later than the legal retirement age. Winning the CFDT’s support is key to the government ending the stalemate.

Lawmakers close to Macron have suggested the extended retirement age could be a temporary measure if another way of balancing the pension budget can be balanced.

(Additional reporting by Bate Felix, Christian Lowe, Richard Lough and Michel Rose in Paris and Johanna Decorse in Toulouse; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Alison Williams)

French police fire tear gas at strikers challenging Macron reform

By Sybille de La Hamaide and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas at protesters in the center of Paris on Thursday and public transport ground to a near halt in one of the biggest strikes in France for decades, aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to ditch a planned reform of pensions.

The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who came to power in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful trade unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

The outcome depends on who blinks first – the unions who risk losing public support if the disruption goes on for too long, or the government which fears voters could side with the unions and blame officials for the standoff.

“People can work around it today and tomorrow, but next week people may get annoyed,” said 56-year-old cafe owner Isabelle Guibal.

Rail workers voted to extend their strike through Friday, while labor unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday.

Trade unions achieved their initial objective on Thursday, as workers at transport enterprises, schools and hospitals across France joined the strike. In Paris, commuters had to dust off old bicycles, rely on car pooling apps, or just stay at home. The Eiffel Tower had to close to visitors.

On Thursday afternoon, tens of thousands of union members marched through the center of the capital in a show of force.

Trouble erupted away from the main protest when people in masks and dressed in black ransacked a bus stop near the Place de la Republique, ripped up street furniture, smashed shop windows and threw fireworks at police.

Police in riot gear responded by firing tear gas, Reuters witnesses said. Nearby, police used truncheons to defend themselves from black-clad protesters who rushed at them. Prosecutors said, in all, 57 people were detained.

Macron wants to simplify France’s unwieldy pension system, which comprises more than 40 different plans, many with different retirement ages and benefits. Rail workers, mariners and Paris Opera House ballet dancers can retire up to a decade earlier than the average worker.

Macron says the system is unfair and too costly. He wants a single, points-based system under which for each euro contributed, every pensioner has equal rights.

PRESIDENT’S SWAGGER

Macron has already survived one major challenge to his rule, from the grassroots “Yellow Vest” protesters who earlier this year clashed with police and blocked roads around France for weeks on end.

Having emerged from that crisis, he carries himself with a swagger on the world stage, publicly upbraiding U.S. President Donald Trump this week over his approach to the NATO alliance and counter-terrorism.

But the pension reform – on which polls show French people evenly split between supporters and opponents – is fraught with risk for him as it chips away at social protections many in France believe are at the heart of their national identity.

“People are spoiling for a fight,” Christian Grolier, a senior official from the hard-left Force Ouvriere union which is helping organize the strike, told Reuters.

The SNCF state railway said only one in 10 high-speed TGV trains would run and police reported power cables on the line linking Paris and the Riviera had been vandalized. The civil aviation authority asked airlines to cancel 20% of flights because of knock-on effects from the strike.

Past attempts at pension reform have ended badly for the authorities. Former president Jacques Chirac’s conservative government in 1995 caved into union demands after weeks of crippling protests.

(Reporting by Caroline Pailliez, Geert de Clercq, Sybille de La Hamaide, Marine Pennetier, Laurence Frost in paris and Guillaume Frouin in Nantes; Writing by Richard Lough and Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones)

‘Nasty’, ‘two-faced’, ‘brain dead’: NATO pulls off summit despite insults

By Robin Emmott and Andreas Rinke

WATFORD, England (Reuters) – NATO leaders set aside public insults ranging from “delinquent” to “brain dead” on Wednesday, declaring at a 70th anniversary summit they would stand together against a common threat from Russia and prepare for China’s rise.

Officials insisted the summit was a success: notably, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan backed off from an apparent threat to block plans to defend northern and eastern Europe unless allies declared Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists.

But the meeting began and ended in acrimony startling even for the era of U.S. President Donald Trump, who arrived declaring the French president “nasty” and left calling Canada’s prime minister “two-faced” for mocking him on a hot mic.

“We have been able to overcome our disagreements and continue to deliver on our core tasks to protect and defend each other,” NATO’s ever-optimistic Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

In a joint declaration, the leaders said: “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all.”

The half-day summit at a golf resort on the outskirts of London was always going to be tricky, with officials hoping to avoid acrimony that burst forth at their meeting last year when Trump complained about allies failing to bear the burden of collective security.

But this year’s meeting was made even more difficult by Erdogan, who launched an incursion into Syria and bought Russian missiles against the objections of his allies, and by French President Emmanuel Macron, who had described the alliance’s strategy as brain dead in an interview last month.

In public it seemed to go worse than expected, beginning on Tuesday when Trump called Macron’s remarks “very, very nasty” and described allies who spend too little on defense as “delinquents” — a term officials said Trump used again on Wednesday behind closed doors during the summit itself.

At a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday evening, Canada’s Justin Trudeau was caught on camera with Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, laughing at Trump’s long press appearances. “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” said Trudeau.

By the time the summit wound up on Wednesday, Trump had decided not to hold a final press conference, saying he had already said enough. “He’s two-faced,” Trump said of Trudeau.

HUAWEI SECURITY RISK

Nevertheless, officials said important decisions were reached, including an agreement to ensure the security of communications, including new 5G mobile phone networks. The United States wants allies to ban equipment from the world’s biggest telecoms gear maker, Chinese firm Huawei.

“I do think it’s a security risk, it’s a security danger,” Trump said in response to a question on Huawei, although the leaders’ declaration did not refer to the company by name.

“I spoke to Italy and they look like they are not going to go forward with that. I spoke to other countries, they are not going to go forward,” he said of contracts with Huawei.

Ahead of the summit, Johnson — the British host who faces an election next week and chose to avoid making any public appearances with Trump — appealed for unity.

“Clearly it is very important that the alliance stays together,” he said. “But there is far, far more that unites us than divides us.”

Macron held his ground over his earlier criticism of NATO’s strategy, saying as he arrived that it was important for leaders to discuss issues in an open and forthright manner if they were to find solutions.

“I think it’s our responsibility to raise differences that could be damaging and have a real strategic debate,” he said. “It has started, so I am satisfied.”

One of Macron’s chief complaints is that Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and a critical ally in the Middle East, has increasingly acted unilaterally, launching its incursion in Syria and buying Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

In his comments to the press, Stoltenberg said that while Russia was a threat, NATO also wanted to ensure a constructive dialogue with it. He added, in a reference to Turkey, that the S-400 system was in no way compatible with NATO’s defense.

At the summit, Europe, Turkey and Canada pledged to spend an extra $400 billion on defense by 2024, responding to Trump’s accusations that they spend too little. Germany, a frequent target of Trump’s blandishments, has promised to spend 2% of national output by 2031.

France and Germany also won backing for a strategic review of NATO’s mission, with the alliance set to establish a “wise persons” group to study how the organization needs to reposition for the future. That could involve shifting its posture away from the East and toward threats in the Middle East and Africa.

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke, John Chalmers and Johnny Cotton in Watford, and Estelle Shirbon in London; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by John Chalmers and Peter Graff)

‘Very, very nasty’: Trump clashes with Macron before NATO summit

By Michel Rose and Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron clashed over the future of NATO on Tuesday before a summit intended to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Western military alliance.

In sharp exchanges underlining discord in a transatlantic bloc hailed by backers as the most successful military pact in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for its collective defense and make concessions to U.S. interests on trade.

Macron, the French president, stood by comments he made last month describing NATO as suffering from a lack of strategic purpose akin to “brain death”, and criticized fellow NATO member Turkey, which he accused of working with Islamic State proxies.

Washington and Paris have long argued over NATO’s purpose – France opposed the 2003 Iraq war – but the new tensions will add to doubts over the alliance’s future that have grown with Trump’s ambivalence over U.S. commitments to defend Europe.

Trump said Macron’s criticism of NATO was “very, very nasty” and questioned whether the U.S. military should defend any countries that were “delinquent” on alliance targets for national military spending.

“It’s not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that’s what happens. We can’t let that happen,” Trump said of transatlantic disputes on issues ranging from the aerospace sector to a European digital services tax on U.S. technology giants.

All 29 member states have a target of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense and Trump has singled out Germany for falling short of that goal.

But Macron stood by his criticism of NATO and said its real problem was a failure to forge a clear purpose since the end of the Cold War.

“If we invest money and put our soldiers’ lives at risk in theaters of operation we must be clear about the fundamentals of NATO,” he said in a tweet at the end of a day overshadowed by tensions between the French and U.S. leaders.

A French presidency official said Trump often makes strident statements ahead of bilateral meetings and cools his rhetoric later. He noted that Macron and Trump “exchanged jokes and were very relaxed” at a joint news conference in London.

COLLECTIVE DEFENSE AT STAKE

Turkey threatened to block a plan to defend Baltic states and Poland against Russian attacks unless NATO backed Ankara in recognizing the Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists.

The YPG’s fighters have long been U.S. and French allies against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey considers them an enemy because of links to Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey.

“If our friends at NATO do not recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations … we will stand against any step that will be taken there,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said before traveling to London.

Erdogan has already strained alliance ties with a move to buy Russian air defense systems. Trump said he was looking at imposing sanctions on Ankara over the issue.

The uncertainty over the plan for Poland and the Baltic states, drawn up at their request after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, raises issues about security on all of NATO’s frontiers.

Under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 1949 founding treaty, an attack on one ally is an attack on all its members, and the alliance has military strategies for collective defense across its territory.

The summit, in a hotel in Hertfordshire just outside London, begins on Wednesday.

On Tuesday evening, alliance leaders attended a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

The British monarch, in a teal-colored matching jacket and skirt, greeted the summiteers and accompanying partners, including former fashion model Melania Trump, who was wearing a bright yellow dress with matching cape and purple sleeves.

They were then welcomed to 10 Downing Street by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the summit a little over a week before the country faces an election.

Several hundred protesters gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square, holding placards reading: “Dump Trump” and “No to racism, no to Trump”. A police line divided them from a small group of Trump supporters wearing Make America Great Again caps, waving American flags and shouting: “Build the wall”.

In Washington on Tuesday, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives laid out their impeachment case against Trump, accusing him of using the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.

Hoping to placate Trump, Europe, Turkey and Canada will pledge at the summit some $400 billion in defense spending by 2024, and agree to a reduction of the U.S. contribution to fund the alliance itself.

The allies will approve a new strategy to monitor China’s growing military activity, and identify space as a domain of warfare, alongside air, land, sea and computer networks.

Trump said he believed Russia wanted deals on arms control and nuclear issues, and that he would be willing to bring China into such accords.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Phil Stewart, Robin Emmott and Iona Serrapica in London, Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Mark John and John Chalmers; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Peter Cooney)

Netanyahu tells Macron timing wrong for Iran talks: statement

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a cornerstone-laying ceremony for Mobileye's center in Jerusalem August 27, 2019. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to avoid new talks with Israel’s regional arch-foe Iran, his office said, as European leaders pushed to save the 2015 nuclear deal.

“This is precisely the wrong timing to hold talks with Iran, while it is increasing its aggression in the region,” Netanyahu told Macron in a telephone conversation that was initiated by the French leader, according to the Israeli statement.

Macron on Sunday paved the way for a potential breakthrough in the standoff between Washington and Tehran over the nuclear deal after Iran’s foreign minister made a flying visit for talks with host France at the G7 summit.

On Monday, at the G7 summit, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he would meet Iran’s president under the right circumstances and that talks were underway to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran’s economy afloat.

The nuclear deal has been in jeopardy since the United States withdrew from it last year and re-imposed economic sanctions, seeking to push Tehran into wider security concessions including curbs on its ballistic missile program.

Netanyahu, who sees Iran as a mortal threat and has long opposed the nuclear deal, has urged that sanctions be re-imposed on Tehran. He has so far been in lockstep with the Trump administration over its Iran policy.

On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic would not talk to the United States until all sanctions imposed on Tehran are lifted.

Rouhani said Iran was always ready to hold talks. “But first the U.S. should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Friday that the European Union will work to preserve the nuclear deal and would welcome any moves to add to its conditions.

Macron’s diplomatic moves came as Israel-Iran tensions flared. Last Saturday, Israel’s military struck in Syria in what it described as the thwarting of an Iranian-led killer-drone attack on Israeli targets.

On Thursday, Israel accused Iran of stepping up efforts to provide the Lebanese Hezbollah militia with precision-guided missile production facilities.

“Israel will defend itself against any attacks and prevent enemies that seek its destruction from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told Macron, according to the statement.

Israel and the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah are on high alert after drones were used on Sunday to attack what a security official in the region described as a target linked to precision-guided missile projects.

Hezbollah has blamed Israel for the rare strike in Beirut, and said it will retaliate. The heavily armed group has denied harboring such missile facilities.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Editing by William Maclean)

Macron must take back ‘insults’ for Brazil to accept G7 Amazon aid: Bolsonaro

FILE PHOTO: A tract of the Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Canarana, Mato Grosso state, Brazil August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Gabriel Stargardter

BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw the “insults” made against him before he considers accepting a $20 million offer from the G7 nations to help fight forest fires in the Amazon.

The two leaders have become embroiled in a deeply personal and public war of words in recent days, with Bolsonaro mocking Macron’s wife and accusing the French leader of disrespecting Brazil’s sovereignty. Macron has called Bolsonaro a liar and said Brazilian women are probably ashamed of their president.

The fires in the Amazon have created a major crisis for Bolsonaro’s far-right government. The Brazilian leader is losing popularity at home and finding himself increasingly isolated on the global stage over his response to blazes that threaten what many view as a key bulwark against global climate change.

His response to the fires is being closely watched by world leaders increasingly concerned by climate change, and could threaten Brazil’s trade deals and powerful agribusiness sector, which is a crucial driver of its recession-plagued economy.

However, the offer of aid from the Group of Seven wealthy nations, which was made at a leaders summit in the southern French town of Biarritz on Monday, has stirred up emotions within Bolsonaro’s nationalist government. Some officials are grateful for the much-needed help, and others view it as a colonial token that undermines Brazil’s control of its lands.

Bolsonaro raised Macron’s ire on Sunday when the Brazilian leader responded to a Facebook post that compared the looks of his wife Michelle, 37, with Macron’s 66-year-old wife Brigitte. “Do not humiliate the man hahahah,” Bolsonaro wrote, in a comment widely criticized as sexist.

Macron, who has accused Bolsonaro of lying about climate change policy, called the remarks “extremely disrespectful” to his wife.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro said he would only countenance accepting G7 money if Macron retracted his earlier comments.

“First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France … he must withdraw these words then we can talk,” Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia. “First he withdraws, then offers (aid), then I will answer.”

The French president’s office declined to comment on Bolsonaro’s remarks.

Later, in an at-times fraught discussion with members of his cabinet and governors of Amazon states, Bolsonaro said he did not have anything against the G7 countries, but rather against the president of one of them – a thinly veiled reference to Macron.

He also said he appreciated the environmental work of the G7, but said any efforts to harm Brazil’s agribusiness sector would hurt Latin America’s largest economy.

Other members of his team took a more adversarial tone.

“Where they have passed they have left a trail of destruction, confusion and misery, so they can’t give that kind of advice to anyone,” Augusto Heleno, a retired Brazilian general who is Bolsonaro’s top security adviser, said about France. He also labeled Macron’s posture as childish.

In a boost for the Brazilian leader, U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted his support for Bolsonaro, an ideological peer on the environment, China and trade.

Bolsonaro “is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!” Trump tweeted.

The Brazilian president responded on Twitter: “We’re fighting the wildfires with great success. Brazil is and will always be an international reference in sustainable development.”

G7 OFFER

Leaders of the G7 made the aid offer after discussing the fires ravaging the world’s largest tropical rainforest – often dubbed “the lungs of the world”.

Initially, as the fires gained global headlines, Bolsonaro said Brazil did not have the resources to tackle the blazes. Then, in the wake of the G7 offer, his Environment Minister Ricardo Salles called the aid “welcome.”

However, on Monday evening, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni said Brazil would reject the G7 offer, although his office said that was his personal view.

The number of blazes recorded across the Brazilian Amazon has risen 79% this year through Aug. 25, according to Brazil’s space research agency. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square kilometers (about 3,800 square miles) burning in Bolivia, near its border with Paraguay and Brazil.

But Brazil is at the epicenter of the blazes, which Bolsonaro has blamed on environmentalists, non-government organizations and the weather. He has also said fires in the Amazon were more prevalent under previous left-wing governments.

Weak rainfall is unlikely to extinguish a record number of fires raging in Brazil’s Amazon anytime soon, with pockets of precipitation through Sept. 10 expected to bring only isolated relief, according to weather data and two experts.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Alistair Bell and Paul Simao)

Trump says ready to meet Iran’s president to solve nuclear impasse

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not seen) at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

By John Irish and Michel Rose

BIARRITZ, France (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would meet Iran’s president under the right circumstances to end a confrontation over a 2015 nuclear deal and that talks were underway to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran’s economy afloat.

But Trump, speaking at a G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, ruled out lifting economic sanctions to compensate for losses suffered by Iran.

Trump told reporters it was realistic to envisage a meeting between him and President Hassan Rouhani in coming weeks, describing Iran as a country of “tremendous potential”.

“I have a good feeling. I think he (Rouhani) is going to want to meet and get their situation straightened out. They are hurting badly,” Trump said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, host of the G7 summit, told the same news conference that Rouhani had told him he would be open to meeting Trump. Macron said he hoped a summit between the two men could happen in coming weeks. Trump and Rouhani head to the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Rouhani is not Iran’s top decision-maker. That role is held by the fiercely anti-American Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – and anything agreed at a Trump-Rouhani encounter would be subject to Khamenei’s approval.

European leaders have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

But Macron has spent the summer trying to create conditions for a period of pause to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

“What I hope is that in coming weeks, based on these talks, we can manage to see a summit between President Rouhani and President Trump,” Macron said, adding that he believed if they met a deal could be struck.

Macron’s efforts took a surprise turn on Sunday when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is under U.S. sanctions, flew to the French seaside town of Biarritz where the Group of Seven leaders were meeting.

“VERY VIOLENT FORCE”

Appearing to refer to Iran’s recent combative rhetoric about its ability to attack U.S. interests, Trump suggested Iran would meet “violent force” if it followed through on its threats.

“They can’t do what they were saying they were going to do because if they do that, they will be met with really very violent force. So I think they are going to be good,” he said.

Trump said he was not open to giving Iran compensation for sanctions on its economy. However he said that the idea under discussion would be for numerous countries to give Iran a credit line to keep it going.

“No we are not paying, we don’t pay,” Trump said.

“But they may need some money to get them over a very rough patch and if they do need money, and it would be secured by oil, which to me is great security, and they have a lot of oil… so we are really talking about a letter of credit. It would be from numerous countries, numerous countries.”

The 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers, reached when Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was in office, aimed to curb Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions on Tehran.

Since ditching the deal last year, Trump has pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” to try to force Iran into broader talks to restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program and end its support for proxy forces around the Middle East as well.

During his brief visit on Sunday, Zarif held talks with Macron and British and German officials before returning home.

Though potentially a diplomatic minefield, Macron’s gamble with Zarif appears to have worked out for now, as Trump on Monday endorsed the French president’s initiative and toned down his usual harsh rhetoric on Tehran.

“MAKE IRAN RICH AGAIN”

While Trump reaffirmed Washington’s goal of extracting further-reaching security concessions from Iran, he said he wanted to see “a really good Iran, really strong”, adding that Washington was not looking for regime change.

“I knew (Zarif) was coming in and I respected the fact that he was coming in. We’re looking to make Iran rich again, let them be rich, let them do well, if they want,” Trump said.

While Trump’s European allies also want fresh negotiations with Iran, they believe the nuclear deal must be upheld to help ward off the risk of wider war in the Middle East. Macron had already met Zarif in Paris on Friday ahead of the G7 summit.

“What we want is very simple. It’s got to be non-nuclear (as well),” Trump said. “We’re going to talk about ballistic missiles…, about the timing. But they (Iran) have to stop terrorism. I think they are going to change, I really do.”

Trump said it was too early for him to meet Zarif himself.

Rouhani signaled a readiness to meet Trump if that helped Iran, according to the official presidency website.

“If I know that in meeting with somebody the problem of my country would be solved, I wouldn’t hesitate because the central issue is the national interests of the country,” Rouhani said.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Marine Pennetier, and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Writing by John Irish; Editing by William Maclean and Gareth Jones)

G7 or G5? Trump and Johnson add unpredictability to French summit

A view shows the beach and Le Bellevue summit venue ahead of the G7 Summit in the French coastal resort of Biarritz, France, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

By John Irish and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – Brexit Britain’s overtures to U.S. President Donald Trump risk further complicating the search for common ground this weekend at a Group of Seven summit already clouded by transatlantic rifts over trade, Iran and climate change.

The summit host, President Emmanuel Macron of France, has set the bar low for Biarritz to avoid a repeat of the fiasco last year when Trump threw Canada’s G7 summit into disarray by leaving early, scotching the final communique.

Macron, an ardent europhile and staunch defender of multilateralism, will count on incremental advances in areas where a united front can be presented, with the meeting, which runs from Saturday to Monday, officially focusing on the broad theme of reducing inequality.

On hot-button issues, they will, when necessary, have to agree to disagree.

“We have to adapt formats. There will be no final communique, but coalitions, commitments and follow-ups,” Macron said. “We must assume that, on one subject or another, a member of the club might not sign up.”

The G7 groups the United States, France, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada, and the European Union also attends. Macron has also invited the leaders of Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa, in order to widen the debate on inequality.

TOUGH TOPICS

But the tougher discussions lie elsewhere. The Sino-U.S. trade war has spurred fears of a global economic slump; European powers are struggling to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran; and Trump has shown little enthusiasm for France’s push for a universal tax on digital multinationals such as Google and Amazon, and turned his back on efforts in Europe and around the globe to limit carbon emissions to slow climate change.

The crisis in Kashmir and street protests in Hong Kong may also be touched on during the talks in France’s Atlantic coast surfing capital, where some 13,000 police will be drafted in to prevent any violent anti-globalization demonstrations.

“There’s no doubt that we will discuss how trade frictions could affect the global economy,” a Japanese government official said. “But it is difficult to deliver messages to the outside since a communique won’t be issued.”

Strained relations between the United States and its top allies mean that where once they were in agreement, they now seek the lowest common denominator.

“It won’t be productive to push something that someone — whether it’s America or some other country — would not agree to do,” the Japanese official added.

Moreover, Italy’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday, Canada is heading for an election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s influence on the world stage is waning ahead of her departure, and Britain is probably on the verge of either leaving the EU or a snap election.

POLITICAL NITROGLYCERINE

One unknown is where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will position himself, making his debut on the global stage at a summit that will lay bare new realities as Britain’s influence in Europe collapses and its dependency on the United States grows.

With less than three months to go before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU – with or without a divorce deal, according to Johnson – his government has sought to cozy up to Trump’s White House with a view to future trade deals.

Francois Heisbourg of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the combination of two personalities “not well-known for their self-control” was “political nitroglycerine”.

He said it might be entertaining, “but if it actually gets in the way of more substantive proceedings, that would be another story”.

While Johnson will want to avoid crossing a volatile Trump and putting trade ties at risk, analysts say, he will also be wary of alienating himself from other leaders who have a more multilateral approach to world politics.

One French diplomat who declined to be named said Paris was curious to see how the Trump-Johnson dynamic played out in Biarritz:

“Even with Brexit in the background, we still have the sense that the British reflex when it comes to international crises is to turn to us and the Germans first.”

(Additional reporting by Lucien Libert in Paris and Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Editing by Richard Lough and Kevin Liffey)

‘Thank You’ – Queen Elizabeth, President Trump and world leaders applaud D-Day veterans

French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain's Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participate in an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, in Portsmouth, Britain, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Dylan Martinez and Steve Holland

PORTSMOUTH, England (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth was joined by world leaders including Donald Trump and Angela Merkel to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, paying personal tribute to the veterans of the largest seaborne invasion in history which helped bring World War Two to an end.

The queen, Prince Charles, presidents and prime ministers rose to applaud veterans, their coats heavy with medals, as they stood on a giant stage beside a guard of honor after a film of the Normandy landings was shown.

“The wartime generation – my generation – is resilient, and I am delighted to be with you in Portsmouth today,” the 93-year-old queen, wearing bright pink, said.

“The heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten. It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country and indeed the whole free world that I say to you all: thank you.”

Prime Minister Theresa May was joined for the commemorative events in Portsmouth by U.S. President Trump, who is on the final day of a state visit to Britain, and his wife, Melania.

Trump read a prayer given by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944: “The enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Merkel, and leaders and senior figures from 10 other countries also attended.

Soldiers stay stand for the event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, in Portsmouth, Britain, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Soldiers stay stand for the event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, in Portsmouth, Britain, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

BLOOD AND THUNDER

In the early hours of June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area to begin the air, sea and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from the Nazi regime.

By the time of the Normandy landings, Soviet forces had been fighting Germany in the east for almost three years and Kremlin chief Josef Stalin had urged British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942.

The invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord and commanded by U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along a 50-mile (80-km) stretch of the French coast.

Shortly after midnight, thousands of paratroopers were dropped. Then came the naval bombardment of German positions overlooking the shore. Then the infantry arrived on the beaches.

Mostly American, British and Canadian men, some just boys, waded ashore as German soldiers tried to kill them with machine guns and artillery. Survivors say the sea was red with blood and the air boiling with the thunder of explosions.

Thousands were killed on both sides. Line upon line of white crosses honor the dead in cemeteries across northern France. Even the codenames of the sectors of the invasion – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – can draw tears from veterans.

“I was terrified. I think everyone was,” said John Jenkins, 99, a veteran who landed at Gold Beach. “You never forget your comrades because we were all in it together.”

The commemorations featured an hour-long performance recounting the wartime events and a flypast by historic, military aircraft. Afterwards, world leaders met veterans of the landings.

The queen, President Trump, Melania and Prince Charles shook hands with half a dozen veterans were waiting for them, exchanging a few words and asking them about their stories from D-Day.

Sixteen countries attended the commemorations: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

They agreed a proclamation to “ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated”.

Merkel said Germany’s liberation from National Socialism brought about something “of which we can be proud.”

“Reconciliation, and unity within Europe, but also the entire post-war order, which brought us peace, for more than seven decades so far,” she said. “That I can be here as German Chancellor, that together we can stand for peace and freedom – that is a gift from history that we must cherish and preserve.”

On Wednesday evening, some 300 veterans who took part on D-Day, all now older than 90, will leave Portsmouth on a specially commissioned ship, MV Boudicca, and retrace their 1944 journey across the English Channel, accompanied by Royal Navy vessels and a lone wartime Spitfire fighter plane.

(Writing by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Frances Kerry and Toby Chopra)