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Donald Trump kicks off U.N. meetings with focus on trade and counterterrorism

September 24, 2018

President Trump met Monday with the leaders of Egypt, France and South Korea at the start of the annual United Nations gathering in New York, highlighting U.S. counterterrorism efforts and sidestepping questions of whether he’ll meet Iran’s president.

Mr. Trump called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi a “great friend” and said the U.S. relationship with Cairo has “never been stronger,” citing increased cooperation between the two nations on military and trade issues.

He also congratulated Mr. el-Sisi for efforts to combat terrorists, especially in Syria.

“We’ve done very well,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve wiped out ISIS. We are in the final throw.”

The president did not respond to reporters’ questions about a possible encounter with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has said he has no plans to meet Mr. Trump in New York. The U.S. accuses Iran of backing terrorism across the Middle East, and the administration has targeted Tehran with sanctions after pulling out of the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Americans “expect the United States to assert bold leadership on the world stage that reflects our values.”

“Under President Trump, we are certainly leading from the front,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters. “Whether it’s security issues, economic issues, human rights, or anything else, the President is asking for countries to exert their sovereignty to solve challenges and listening to what America can do to help.”

Mr. Trump also led a U.N. panel Monday on combating the global drug crisis, saying a robust international effort could save millions of lives.

“Today we commit to fighting the drug epidemic together,” Mr. Trump told the panel, part of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York this week.

Mr. Trump often clashes with the UN but the fight against illegal drug trafficking was an area where he say eye to eye with the international body. The Trump administration pulled out of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council and the UNESCO cultural program.

“I’ve always said the United Nations has tremendous potential and that potential is being met. Slowly but surely it is being met,” he said.

The president noted that cocaine and opium production reached an all-time high and the number of drug-related deaths around the world increased 60 percent between 2000 and 2015.

He called the death toll “absolutely terrible.”

“As we know, illicit drugs are linked to organized crime, illegal financial flows, corruption and terrorism,” he said. “It is vital for public health and national security that we fight drug addiction and stop all forms of trafficking and smuggling that provide the financial lifeblood for vicious transnational cartels.”

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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