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Rex Tillerson meets EU, NATO leaders under cloud

Rex Tillerson meets EU, NATO leaders under cloud
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BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets his European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday to shore up ties, with allies insisting he still plays a "key role" despite doubts over his future.

Tillerson will hold talks over lunch with EU foreign ministers and the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, before a two-day NATO meeting set to focus on North Korea's missile programme and concerns over perceived hostility from Russia.
But his visit comes against a difficult backdrop - a rift with President Donald Trumphas led to reports he could be replaced within weeks, calling into question his authority to speak for Washington.
And there are major differences between Washington and Europe on a number of key policy areas, notably the Iran nuclear deal which Trump has vehemently condemned but which Brussels is desperate to preserve. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that it was vital international powers worked together to tackle the North Korean crisis, after Pyongyang tested a long-range missile it said could hit anywhere in the continental United States. "Last week's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile showed that all allied nations could be within range," Stoltenberg said on Monday. "The whole world needs to apply maximum pressure on North Korea in order to achieve a peacefully negotiated solution."
He said the 29-member alliance had been "clear and consistent" in its condemnation of Pyongyang's weapons programme, which has seen the reclusive state carry out a series of ballistic missile and nuclear tests in defiance of international sanctions. The EU has been ramping up economic sanctions on the North in a bid to force it to the negotiating table - but with no success so far. But if the US and EU can present a unified front on North Korea, the deal with Iran to end the Islamic republic's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions is more problematic.

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