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Trump says he does not see expanded role for U.S. in Libya beyond ISIS fight

President Trump and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni hold a joint news conference on Thursday at the White House. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
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President Trump on Thursday reaffirmed his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal and pledged not to expand the United States’ role in Libya beyond fighting the Islamic State.

At a time when several of the president’s stances on foreign affairs appear to be shifting, the dual comments represent a fidelity with some of the national security positions Trump staked out during the campaign, many of which were aimed at projecting military strength through a buildup of the armed forces while promising a more limited U.S. role in foreign conflicts.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump bluntly declared that he saw “no role” for the United States in stabilizing Libya, except in fighting the Islamic State.

“I do not see a role in Libya,” Trump said, just seconds after Gentiloni said his country hoped to see more U.S. engagement there. “I think the United States has right now enough roles. We’re in a role everywhere. So I do not see that.” “I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS. We’re being very effective in that regard,” he added.

For Italy, political instability and violence in Libya have led to a crisis of migrants seeking refuge on its shores, many of them dying on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Gentiloni on Thursday urged the United States to further help find a political solution in Libya.

“A divided country and in conflict would make civility worse,” he said of Libya. “The U.S. role in this is very critical.”

Trump also sharply denounced the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and promised to address it further in the “not-too-distant future.” “It was a terrible agreement. It shouldn’t have been signed,” Trump said. “They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement. I can tell you that.”

The comments underscored one part of Trump’s position on the deal during the campaign, but he notably did not reiterate his promise to rip it up immediately, a tacit acknowledgment that the administration does not yet have an alternative to the deal in place.

The meeting between Trump and Gentiloni comes weeks before Trump is set to travel to Europe on his first foreign trip as president. He will make a stop at the summit of leaders of the Group of Seven, which will be held in Sicily.

Gentiloni is one of several world leaders and close U.S. allies seeking to quickly establish a relationship with Trump and perhaps influence his young presidency. Like Trump, Gentiloni is new to his job, having taken power in December after former prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned after constitutional changes he backed failed in a referendum.

While Renzi had a close relationship with President Barack Obama – and openly backed Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy – Gentiloni and Trump come to their relationship without much baggage, potentially opening the door for warm relations.

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