'Capricious': Donald Tusk condemns Trump administration

Emmanuel Macron left is greeted by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as he arrives for a dinner with EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the Sofia Tech Park in Sofia Bulgaria Wednesday

European Council President Donald Tusk derided US President Donald Trump over his administration's "capricious assertiveness" and called on the EU to unite on the Iran nuclear agreement and tariffs.

Underlining the depth of trans-Atlantic discord, the chairman of European Union leaders Donald Tusk said Trump had "rid Europe of all illusions" by withdrawing from the Iran accord and driving trade disputes.

"But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump".

He said: "We are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration".

In dinner talks in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, EU leaders will be briefed on possible incentives to keep Tehran in the nuclear agreement, even after a key player like the USA pulled out.

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Trump's decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear accord risks exposing European countries that have since invested in Iran to renewed US sanctions, after "wind-down" periods of three to six months expire.

But the EU's hopes have been complicated by the fact that European companies would also be exposed to U.S. sanctions imposed on anyone doing business in Iran.

Tusk said the U.S. appeared to be hesitating in hitting European companies doing business in Iran with sanctions, but the bloc still needed to be ready to protect its interests.

Tusk's unusually biting criticism of Trump on Wednesday highlighted the deep trans-Atlantic split: "Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?".

"As we know, the USA tariffs on steel and aluminium can not be justified on the grounds of national security", Tusk said.

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"The broader US-EU security relationship is at risk", a former US envoy to the EU, Anthony Gardner, told the European Parliament on Wednesday. "I will propose we stick to our guns", Tusk said. Therefore US tariffs can not be justified on the basis of national security.

But the reach of the USA financial system, the dominance of the dollar and the presence of European companies' operations in the United States all weaken any potential EU measures.

Major European countries share Trump's concerns but argue that the nuclear deal is the best way to stop the increasingly influential regional power from obtaining an atomic weapon.

"We notably discussed concrete practical solutions to make sure the European Union can continue to live up to its commitments under the deal and protect our economic operations", said Avramopoulos, the EU's migration commissioner.

Even by the stressed standards of relations between Europe and the United States in the Trump era, European Council President Donald Tusk's Wednesday criticisms were unusually cutting.

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