TPM World News

LONDON (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned Monday, adding to divisions over Brexit that threaten to tear apart Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

May’s office said in a terse statement that the prime minister had accepted Johnson’s resignation and would name a replacement soon.

Johnson, one of the best-known and most flamboyant members of the government, quit just hours after the resignation late Sunday of Brexit Secretary David Davis, the government’s top Brexit official.

Davis said he could not support May’s plan to maintain close trade and regulatory ties with the EU, which he said gave “too much away, too easily.”

There was no immediate statement from Johnson, another loud pro-Brexit voice within May’s divided government.

If Davis’s resignation rattled May, Johnson’s shook the foundations of her government.

The resignations came just days after May announced she had finally united her quarrelsome government behind her plan for a divorce deal with the EU.

Less than nine months remain until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019, and the EU has warned Britain repeatedly that time is running out to seal a divorce deal.

Britain and the EU hope to reach broad agreement by October so that EU national parliaments can ratify a deal before Britain leaves. That timetable looks increasingly optimistic, but European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the EU was available “available 24/7.”

Schinas said the bloc “will continue to negotiate in good will, bona fide, with Prime Minister Theresa May and the U.K. government negotiators in order to reach a deal.”

Steve Baker, a junior Brexit minister also resigned. May appointed staunchly pro-Brexit lawmaker Dominic Raab as the country’s new Brexit secretary.

Before Johnson quit, May’s official spokesman, James Slack, said Britain wanted to “move forward at pace” in the negotiations.

“There is now a new secretary of state and we look forward to moving on,” he said.

During a 12-hour meeting on Friday, May’s fractious Cabinet — including Davis — finally agreed on a plan for future trade ties with the EU.

The plan seeks to keep the U.K. and the EU in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products.

Some Brexit-supporting lawmakers are angry at the proposals, saying they will keep Britain tethered to the bloc and unable to change its rules to strike new trade deals around the world.

In a resignation letter, Davis said the “‘common rule book’ policy hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense.”

Davis also said that May’s plan “would be a risk at least of delivering a poor outcome.”

His departure was hailed by pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, who have long considered May too prone to compromise with the EU. They believe the proposals breach several of the “red lines” the government has set out, including a commitment to leave the bloc’s tariff-free customs union.

Some euroskeptic lawmakers dream of replacing May with a staunch Brexiteer, such as Johnson, who in the past has disagreed publicly with his boss.

Davis said he did not want his resignation to become a rallying cry for May’s ouster.

“I like Theresa May, I think she’s a good prime minister,” Davis said.

Davis did not urge other ministers to resign, saying he was in a unique position because the Brexit secretary’s job is to sell the government’s policy.

“I’d have to deliver this. I’d have to do something I didn’t believe in,” he told the BBC. “That’s not a tenable position. … Others don’t have that same responsibility.”

Under Conservative Party rules, a confidence vote in a leader can be triggered if 48 Conservative lawmakers request one.

But leading pro-Brexit legislator Jacob Rees-Mogg said “I don’t think a no-confidence vote is immediately in the offing.” He urged May to abandon her plans and take a tougher line with Brussels.

“Friday’s announcement was turning red lines into a white flag, and David Davis has made that so clear in his resignation letter,” Rees-Mogg said.

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LONDON (AP) — Britain and the European Union insisted Monday that their divorce negotiations remain on track, after the resignation of the U.K.’s top Brexit official shook Prime Minister Theresa May’s fragile grip on power.

May appointed staunchly pro-Brexit lawmaker Dominic Raab as the country’s new Brexit secretary, hours after the late-night resignation of his predecessor David Davis.

Davis said he could not support May’s plan to maintain close trade and regulatory ties with the EU — a proposal agreed by the Cabinet after a marathon meeting Friday. Steve Baker, a junior Brexit minister also resigned.

The resignations dealt yet another blow to the beleaguered leader, just two days after she announced she had finally united her quarrelsome government behind her plan for a divorce deal with the EU.

Less than nine months remain until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019, and the EU has warned Britain repeatedly that time is running out to seal a divorce deal.

Britain and the EU hope to reach broad agreement by October so that EU national parliaments can ratify a deal before Britain leaves. That timetable looks increasingly optimistic, but European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the EU was available “available 24/7.”

Schinas said the bloc “will continue to negotiate in good will, bona fide, with Prime Minister Theresa May and the U.K. government negotiators in order to reach a deal.”

May’s official spokesman, James Slack, said Britain wanted to “move forward at pace” in the negotiations.

“There is now a new secretary of state and we look forward to moving on,” he said.

During a 12-hour meeting on Friday, May’s fractious Cabinet — including Davis — finally agreed on a plan for future trade ties with the EU.

The plan seeks to keep the U.K. and the EU in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products.

Some Brexit-supporting lawmakers are angry at the proposals, saying they will keep Britain tethered to the bloc and unable to change its rules to strike new trade deals around the world.

In his resignation letter, Davis said the “‘common rule book’ policy hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense.”

Davis said Monday that he believed Britain was “giving too much away, too easily” in the exit talks, saying that May’s plan “would be a risk at least of delivering a poor outcome.”

Davis departure was hailed by pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, who have long considered May too prone to compromise with the EU. They believe the proposals breach several of the “red lines” the government has set out, including a commitment to leave the bloc’s tariff-free customs union.

Some euroskeptic lawmakers dream of replacing May with a staunch Brexiteer, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who in the past has disagreed publicly with his boss.

Johnson has not commented publicly since Friday.

Davis said he did not want his resignation to become a rallying cry for May’s ouster.

“I like Theresa May, I think she’s a good prime minister,” Davis said.

Davis did not urge other ministers to resign, saying he was in a unique position because the Brexit secretary’s job is to sell the government’s policy.

“I’d have to deliver this. I’d have to do something I didn’t believe in,” he told the BBC. “That’s not a tenable position. … Others don’t have that same responsibility.”

But leading pro-Brexit legislator Jacob Rees-Mogg said “I don’t think a no-confidence vote is immediately in the offing.” He urged May to abandon her plans and take a tougher line with Brussels.

“Friday’s announcement was turning red lines into a white flag, and David Davis has made that so clear in his resignation letter,” Rees-Mogg said.

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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea said Saturday that high-level talks with a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were “regrettable” and accused Washington of trying to unilaterally pressure the country into abandoning its nukes.

The North’s statement came hours after Pompeo wrapped up two days of talks with senior North Korean officials without meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but with commitments for new discussions on denuclearization and the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

Before departing Pyongyang, Pompeo told reporters that his conversations with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been “productive,” conducted “in good faith” and that “a great deal of progress” had been made in some areas. He stressed that “there’s still more work to be done” in other areas, much of which would be done by working groups that the two sides have set up to deal with specific issues.

The North provided a much harsher assessment of the talks, saying that the United States betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim by making “one-sided and robber-like” demands on “CVID,” or the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.

It said the outcome of the follow-up talks was “very concerning” because it has led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm.”

“We had expected that the U.S. side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders’ summit … we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures,” an unnamed spokesman of Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“However, the attitude and stance the United States showed in the first high-level meeting (between the countries) was no doubt regrettable,” the spokesman said.

Pompeo said that a Pentagon team would be meeting with North Korean officials on or about July 12 at the border between North and South Korea to discuss the repatriation of remains and that working level talks would be held soon on the destruction of North Korea’s missile engine testing facility.

In the days following his historic June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, President Donald Trump had announced that the return of the remains and the destruction of the missile facility had been completed or were in progress.

Pompeo, however, said that more talks were needed on both.

“We now have a meeting set up for July 12 — it could move by one day or two — where there will be discussions between the folks responsible for the repatriation of remains.

(It) will take place at the border and that process will begin to develop over the days that follow,” he said as he boarded his plane for Tokyo.

On the destruction of the missile engine plant, Pompeo said, “We talked about what the modalities would look like for the destruction of that facility as well, and some progress there as well, and then we have laid out a path for further negotiation at the working level so the two teams can get together and continue these discussions.”

Earlier, Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol both said they needed clarity on the parameters of an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula that Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to in Singapore. The trip was Pompeo’s third to Pyongyang since April and his first since the summit.

Unlike his previous visits, which have been one-day affairs during which he has met with Kim Jong Un, Pompeo spent the night at a government guesthouse in Pyongyang and did not see the North Korean leader, although U.S. officials had suggested such a meeting was expected. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said no meeting with Kim Jong Un had been planned.

As they began their talks on Saturday, Kim Yong Chol alluded to the fact that Pompeo and his delegation had stayed overnight in Pyongyang.

“We did have very serious discussions on very important matters yesterday,” Kim said. “So, thinking about those discussions you might have not slept well last night.”

Pompeo, who spoke with Trump, national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly by secure phone before starting Saturday’s session, replied that he “slept just fine.” He added that the Trump administration was committed to reaching a deal under which North Korea would denuclearize and realize economic benefits in return.

Kim later said that “there are things that I have to clarify” to which Pompeo responded that “there are things that I have to clarify as well.”

There was no immediate explanation of what needed to be clarified, but the two sides have been struggling to specify what exactly “denuclearization” would entail and how it could be verified to the satisfaction of the United States.

Pompeo and Kim met for nearly three hours Friday and then had dinner amid growing skepticism over how serious Kim Jong Un is about giving up his nuclear arsenal and translating the upbeat rhetoric following his summit with Trump into concrete action.

On his flight to Pyongyang, Pompeo said both sides made commitments at the Singapore summit on the complete denuclearization of North Korea and on what a transformed relationship between their two countries might look like.

One hoped-for breakthrough on this trip would have been the return of the remains of U.S. troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea committed at last month’s summit to the “immediate repatriation” of remains already identified, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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ISTANBUL (AP) — A court in Istanbul convicted six journalists of terror-related charges Friday in a case that heightened concerns over the freedom of expression and media rights in Turkey. The staff members of a now-defunct newspaper received lengthy prison sentences.

However, the court acquitted five other former journalists for Zaman, a newspaper which was close to a U.S.-based cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed military coup. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.

The 11 defendants were arrested shortly after the coup. They were charged with membership in a terror organization, violating the Turkish Constitution, attempting to overthrow the government and other crimes. The court convicted the six of membership in an armed terror organization, but dropped the other charges.

“(The) fact that the legitimate work of journalists has not been recognized before the court today is a clear message that journalists will feel for a while,” Erol Onderoglu of the media rights group Reporters without Borders told The Associated Press.

Columnist Mumtazer Turkone and Zaman’s Ankara bureau chief, Mustafa Onal, were sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Journalist Ibrahim Karayegen received nine years, while columnists Ali Bulac, Sahin Alpay and Ahmet Turan Alkan each received over eight years.

They were expected to appeal their convictions. The court ruled that Turkone and Onal would remain imprisoned pending their appeals.

“Unfortunately, the judiciary in Turkey is maybe having its worst days in its history. It’s under heavy political pressure,” lawyer Faruk Zorba, who represented Alkan, told the AP outside the courthouse.

“The (Gulen) organization is a religious structure in its basis, but the defendants on trial here are mostly people who’ve espoused a secular lifestyle,” he said.

Alkan’s wife expressed pleasure at her husband’s release after nearly two years in detention.

“I am very happy,” Suheyla Alkan said. “I thank the Turkish judiciary. ”

Since the coup attempt, some 50,000 people, including dozens of journalists, were arrested in a massive crackdown on alleged Gulen supporters. Some 110,000 people have been fired from public sector jobs. At least 140 media organizations were shut down.

Zaman was raided in March 2016 after a court placed it under the management of trustees and later shuttered for allegedly serving as a mouthpiece for Gulen’s movement.

Earlier this year, three other prominent journalists were given life sentences for alleged links to Gulen.

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s representative to OPEC says U.S. President Donald Trump should stop tweeting about wanting lower oil prices, saying that doing so has the opposite effect.

Hossein Kazempour Ardebili was quoted by the oil ministry’s website Thursday as telling Trump to “please stop,” adding that “with your frequent and indecent tweets oil prices have gone up 10 dollars.”

Trump has repeatedly called on the oil cartel to reduce prices. On Wednesday he tweeted that OPEC is “doing little to help,” adding that, “if anything, they are driving prices higher.”

Tehran blames rising prices on U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran and Venezuela, founding members of the cartel. Last month, members of OPEC agreed to pump an additional 1 million barrels of crude daily, a move that should help contain prices.

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AMESBURY, England (AP) — British officials investigating a second case of poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok in southwestern England said Thursday they suspect the victims were not directly targeted but sickened as a consequence of the previous attack.

Police announced late Wednesday that specialists have determined that a couple in their 40s were poisoned by the same lethal toxin — developed by the Soviet Union — that almost killed Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. The new victims are both critically ill in the same hospital that treated the Skripals.

“The working assumption would be that these are victims of either the consequence of the previous attack, or something else, but not that they were directly targeted,” security minister Ben Wallace told the BBC.

“I think what we said at the time was that this was a brazen and reckless attack in the heart of a very peaceful part of the United Kingdom, and that is part of the anger I feel about the Russian state … that they chose to use clearly a very, very toxic, highly dangerous weapon.”

The unexplained poisoning of two British citizens with no immediately apparent link to Russia has raised public health concerns in the Salisbury area, where a massive decontamination effort took place after the Skripals were found to have been poisoned with Novichok.

Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed the Russian state for the attack on the Skripals — an assertion the Kremlin denies. Wallace said the Russian government could “put this wrong right” by providing details about the Skripal poisoning. He called on Moscow to provide information and “tell us what happened. What they did.”

“I’m waiting for the phone call from the Russian state,” he said. “The offer is there. They are the ones who could fill in all the clues to keep people safe.”

The new case has surfaced at a sensitive time as England’s soccer team is advancing in the World Cup, a global competition staged this year in Russia. It also comes days before a NATO summit expected to focus in part on worsening relations between Russia and the West.

The Kremlin’s spokesman says Russia is concerned but has had nothing to do with either case.

“Russia has categorically denied and continues to categorically deny the possibility of any kind of involvement to what was happening there,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday.

Peskov noted Britain has rejected Russia’s offer for a joint probe, adding that “the British side has not presented any evidence of Russia’s involvement in this, besides unfounded accusations.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is chairing a meeting of the British government’s COBRA emergency committee on Thursday morning. He will brief the House of Commons on the matter afterward.

Local police declared the case a “major incident” Wednesday, four days after the couple — identified by friends as 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess and 45-year-old Charlie Rowley — were found collapsed at a residential building in Amesbury, eight miles (13 kilometers) from Salisbury, where the Skripals were poisoned.

Britain’s senior counter-terrorism police official Neil Basu said police do not know whether the nerve agent came from the same batch that left the Skripals fighting for their lives.

“The possibility that these two investigations might be linked is clearly a line of inquiry for us,” he said late Wednesday night.

Initially, the investigation was led by local police, but Basu said counterterrorism detectives were taking charge after the substance was identified as Novichok. He said 100 officers had been assigned to the case.

Police said officers were initially called Saturday morning about a collapsed woman, then were summoned back in the evening after a man fell ill at the same property. Police at first thought the two had taken a contaminated batch of heroin or crack.

Police cordoned off a home in Amesbury, believed to be Rowley’s, and other places the pair visited, including a church, a pharmacy and a park in Salisbury, near where the Skripals were found.

The Skripals’ illness initially baffled doctors after they were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury. Scientists at the Porton Down defense laboratory concluded they had been poisoned with Novichok, a type of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was believed to have been on the front door of Sergei Skripal’s home.

Andrea Sella, professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London, said Novichok nerve agents “are designed to be quite persistent — they hang around in the environment, neither evaporating or decomposing quickly.

“That means that if a container or a surface was contaminated with this material it would remain a danger for a long time and it will be vital to trace the movements of this couple to identify where they might have come into contact with the source,” he said. “So while the public at large are at very low risk from this material, until the source is found there is a remote chance that someone else might come into contact with it.”

After spending weeks in critical condition, the Skripals slowly got better and were released from the hospital and taken to an undisclosed location for their protection. Doctors say they don’t know the long-term prognosis.

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MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — With more rain coming, Thai rescuers are racing to pump out water from a flooded cave before they can extract 12 boys and their soccer coach with minimum risk, officials said Thursday.

A firefighter who has been working on draining the water said parts of a passage leading to the chamber where the group was found Monday was still flooded to its ceiling, making diving the only way out.

“What we worry most is the weather,” Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn told reporters. “We can’t risk having the flood back into the cave.”

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the northern province after a soccer game June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for 10 days. The boys, although skinny, have been described as in good health. Authorities have said the soccer players are being looked after by Thai navy SEALs, including medics, staying with them inside the cave.

Narongsak said he asked the SEALs in charge of extraction plans to estimate what sort of a risk would be involved to take them out and “what kind of readiness we can have today and decide if we can take that chance.” He said the 13 may not be extracted at the same time, depending on their condition. They’ve practiced wearing diving masks and breathing, in preparation for the possibility they may have to dive.

“This morning, I have asked for 13 sets of (diving) equipment to be prepared and checked the equipment lists and place them inside (the cave) in case we have to bring them out in this condition with less than 100 percent readiness,” he said.
Officials prefer to get the boys out as soon as possible because heavy rain expected by Saturday almost surely will raise water levels again in the cave, making passage in some areas even more difficult, if not impossible.

They are hoping that an upgraded draining effort can lower the water in an area where it is still at or near the ceiling. The idea is to get some headroom so the boys would not be reliant on scuba apparatus for a long stretch and could keep their heads above water.

The navy has released videos of the boys, showing them smiling and interacting with the personnel sent into the cave to bring supplies, treat their injuries and keep them company.

One Thai navy SEAL team member who spent time with the boys said the young soccer players “were always asking about the World Cup.” ”I told them that all the big teams had gone home,” the navy SEAL member said.

Seeing the boys has boosted the mood of their family members, and officials are working to install an internet cable to the cave so that parents can talk to their children.

Kian Kamluang, whose 16-year-old son, Pornchai, is in the cave, said she had thought there was a 50 percent chance that her son would be found.
“It’s like he has been given a new life,” she said, adding that she’ll never let her son go into a cave or near water again.

Cave rescue experts have said it could be safest to simply supply the boys where they are, and wait for the flooding to subside. That could take months, however, given that Thailand’s rainy season typically lasts through October.

Experienced divers are wary of taking out the boys through the dark and dangerous waters still in the cave, especially since they are untrained.

“We are talking kilometers of transport under the water with zero visibility,” said Claus Rasmusen, a certified cave diving instructor based in Thailand who has been helping Thai SEAL team with logistics. “It’s difficult.”

He said it was awkward, but possible, to teach them minimal skills.

“Nobody will teach anyone a full cave course, but trying to get them comfortable with masks, with the breathing, (is) completely different,” he said. “Creating an environment that can make them safely get away, that’s feasible.”

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MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — Rescuers found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive deep inside a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand late Monday, more than a week after they disappeared and touched off a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation.

Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the 13 were in the process of being rescued, but he cautioned that they were not out of peril yet.

“We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over,” he said in comments broadcast nationwide.

Rescue divers had spent much of Monday making preparations for a final push to locate the lost soccer players, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach. They disappeared when flooding trapped them after entering the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23.

Anmar Mirza, a leading American cave rescue expert, said many challenges remain for the rescuers. He said the primary decision is whether to try to evacuate the boys and their coach or to supply them in place.

“Supplying them on site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are,” Mirza, coordinator of the U.S. National Cave Rescue Commission, said in an email. “Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy. That also begets the question: If the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater.”

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the international experts and rescuers who helped locate the missing for their “tremendous efforts.”

“The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and cooperation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery,” Prayuth’s office said in a statement.

Thai navy SEAL divers and rescue workers from other countries made initial progress through the narrow passageway early Monday after passing through a key chamber on Sunday whose high, murky waters had previously blocked their progress.

Gov. Narongsak earlier said the passageway the divers made their way through goes upward in some places and downward in others and is extremely narrow, making it difficult for divers and their gear to fit through.

Divers have been stymied repeatedly by rising water that forced them to withdraw for safety reasons. When water levels fell Sunday, the divers went forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.

The SEALs’ Facebook page said that since Sunday night, the divers had reached a bend where the kilometer-long (half-mile-long) passage splits in two directions. The divers were aiming for a sandy chamber on higher ground in the cave.

Narongsak explained earlier Monday that fixing rope lines and deploying oxygen tanks along their route will allow the divers to operate.

In addition to the divers, teams have been working to pump out water as well as divert groundwater. Other efforts have focused on finding shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas.

Teams have been combing the mountainside looking for fissure that might lead to such shafts. Several have been found and explorers have been able to descend into some.

Experts in cave rescues from around the world had gathered at the site. An official Australian group has followed a U.S. military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries.

“These are challenging conditions and there’s a lot of consideration for safety as well as, the environment outside is contributing to the environment inside,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jessica Tait, part of a 30-member U.S. military team assisting in the search operation, referring to the rain that has been flooding the cave. “So I’d say, yeah, it’s an accurate statement that it’s challenging.”

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — The morning after his crushing election victory, Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador thanked President Donald Trump for his congratulation message and said he’ll contact the U.S. leader to “reach an understanding.”

Lopez Obrador said in an interview Monday with the Televisa news network that Trump’s Tweet Sunday night “was very respectful. That is what we always want to maintain with the U.S. government, that there be mutual respect.”

Trump tweeted Sunday that “I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!”

“We are never going to disrespect the U.S. government, because we want them to respect us,” Lopez Obrador said. “At the appropriate moment, we are going to get in touch, to reach an understanding” with the Trump administration.

“We are conscious of the need to maintain good relations with the United States,” he added. Lopez Obrador had been compared to Trump for his populist, nationalist rhetoric and sometimes touchy personality — as well as his past skepticism about the trade deal.

But Lopez Obrador said he supports reaching a deal on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Canada. The talks have been stalled over the Trump administration demands for higher U.S. content and a “sunset clause” in the 1994 trade agreement.

Lopez Obrador said he will propose that his own team of experts be included in the talks. The winning candidate said he will make that proposal in a meeting Tuesday with current President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Lopez Obrador told Televisa that he will respect the current team of negotiators, and let them continue representing Mexico until he takes office Dec. 1.

Lopez Obrador said he wants to have information on what’s being discussed and “to help as much as we can.”

With just over half of votes counted on Monday, Lopez Obrador had about 53.7 percent of the votes, a remarkable margin not seen in the country for more than three decades.

A prominent exit poll predicted his party allies were poised to score big victories in congressional and governorship races.

Lopez Obrador, who campaigned on vows to transform Mexico and oust the “mafia of power” ruling the country, rode widespread voter anger and discontent with the governing Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, of President Enrique Pena Nieto and had led opinion polls since the beginning of the campaign.

The PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for nearly the entire 20th century and recaptured the presidency in 2012, was set to suffer heavy losses, not just for the presidency but in other races as well.

In brief remarks at a hotel in central Mexico City late Sunday, Lopez Obrador called for reconciliation after a polarizing campaign and promised profound change but with respect for the law and constitutional order.

“I confess that I have a legitimate ambition: I want to go down in history as a good president of Mexico,” said Lopez Obrador, who had lost in the previous two presidential elections. “I desire with all my soul to raise the greatness of our country on high.”

Lopez Obrador said he would “seek to establish an authentic democracy and we do not intend to establish a dictatorship.” He said, “The changes will be profound, but in accordance with established order.”

Conservative Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition and the PRI’s Jose Antonio Meade acknowledged defeat shortly after polls closed nationwide. The quick count had them around 22 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Lopez Obrador said individual and property rights would be guaranteed, promised respect for the autonomy of the central Bank of Mexico and said his government will maintain financial and fiscal discipline.

He said contracts obtained under energy reforms passed under President Enrique Pena Nieto will be scrutinized for any corruption or illegality, but otherwise contracts will be honored.

“There will be no confiscation or expropriation of assets. … Eradicating corruption will be the principal mission,” he said.

Lopez Obrador also spoke of reducing Mexican immigration to the United States through economic development.

“Mexicans will be able … to work and be happy where they were born,” he said.

And rather than the use of force to fight spiraling violence, he will look to fix root causes such as inequality and poverty.

Partial vote counts also showed probable gubernatorial wins for allies of Lopez Obrador’s Morena party in at least four of eight state races on the ballot plus for the head of government in Mexico City. The central state of Guanajuato was expected to go to a candidate of the conservative National Action Party.

The polling firm Consulta Mitofsky predicted Morena allies would take between 56 and 70 seats in the 128-member Senate and between 256 and 291 spots in the 500-seat lower house.

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Monday slammed the Trump administration for considering tariffs on auto imports, saying they could lead to global retaliation against some $300 billion in U.S. goods amid signs of a brewing trade war.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the U.S. investigation into the possibility of auto tariffs “lacks legitimacy, factual basis and violates international trade rules,” just like last month’s U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The EU sent comments to the U.S. for consideration in the Department of Commerce investigation into whether auto imports pose enough of a threat to U.S. national security to justify tariffs and estimating the economic impact.

President Donald Trump cited national security concerns for the previous tariffs. The EU, which described the move as “pure protectionism,” introduced duties on U.S. products in return, as did Mexico, Canada, Turkey and India.

“European cars do not threaten or impair the health of the U.S. industry and economy,” Schinas said. He noted that European carmakers create over half a million jobs in the U.S.

In its submission, the EU argues that trade restrictions would likely to lead to higher costs for U.S.-based producers, and in effect become a tax on American consumers. This would only be aggravated by the likely counter-measures the 28-nation bloc and other trading partners might take.

The EU responded to the steel and aluminum tariffs with “rebalancing measures” that hit around 2.8 billion euros ($3.25 billion) worth of American-made products.

The EU said the U.S. auto industry is in good health, but any restrictive duties could undermine that trend.

The impact of retaliatory measures by Washington’s trading partners could total around $294 billion — or around 19 percent of total U.S. exports in 2017, the EU estimates.

Last week, European Council President Donald Tusk warned that Trump’s policies are harming trans-Atlantic relations and that “we must be ready to prepare our Union for worst-case scenarios.”

Tusk thinks Trump’s action on tariffs, pulling out of the global climate agreement and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — an agreement the Europeans say is vital to their security — is part of a pattern rather than isolated incidents. Any tariffs on EU cars would hit Germany hard.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that while the EU does have higher tariffs on cars than the U.S. — around 10 percent versus 2 percent — the tariffs only apply to a fraction of the car market, around 15 percent. The U.S. has higher tariffs on trucks and other products, she said.

Malmstrom said the EU cannot lift its car tariffs for the United States or it would have to do so for the rest of the world, and “there’s no way” EU member countries would agree to that.

Despite questioning the probe’s legitimacy, the EU has requested to take part in a Commerce public hearing on July 19-20.

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LiveWire