US President Donald Trump labelled a refugee deal made by former president Barack Obama with Australia "dumb" on Thursday, threatening a rare rift in ties between the two allies.
The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that Trump abruptly cut the fiery telephone conversation short with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the weekend, after criticising the agreement to resettle the detainees held in Pacific camps who prove to have valid asylum claims.
It said the call had been scheduled to last an hour but Trump cut it short after 25 minutes when Turnbull tried to turn to subjects such as Syria.
The Post reported that Trump described the resettlement plan as "the worst deal ever" and accused Australia of trying to export the "next Boston bombers."
Later on Thursday, Trump described the accord a "dumb deal" on Twitter.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
In Melbourne, Turnbull told reporters the call with Trump at the weekend had been frank and candid but refused to give further details.
"I do stand up for Australia. My job is to defend Australian interests," Turnbull said on Thursday.
Turnbull refused to confirm the Post report that Trump, who had earlier spoken to world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, had angrily told him that the call was "the worst so far."
Political analysts said such acrimony was unprecedented, surpassing even the difficult relations between former US president Richard Nixon and then Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam, who pulled Australian troops out of the Vietnam War.
"Even that was always done in the language of foreign policy niceties," said Harry Phillips, a political analyst with 40 years experience at Edith Cowan and Curtin universities in Perth.
TRT World's Simon Marks has more details.