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Trump speaks with Germany’s Merkel over latest tensions in Middle East

President Trump spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday about Middle East security issues and the situation in Libya, according to the White House.

“Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump spoke with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. The two leaders discussed ongoing regional security matters in the Middle East and Libya and other bilateral issues,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

Russia is hosting Libya’s dueling leaders on Monday for discussions as part of an effort by Russia and Turkey to bring an end to the country’s years-long civil war.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Merkel in Moscow on Saturday and both called for a ceasefire and de-escalation of the conflict in Libya.

Trump’s call with Merkel also comes as his administration faces continued questions about the president’s decision to authorize a drone strike in Iraq against Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top military leader who commanded Tehran’s Quds Force, which is a designated terrorist organization.

The strike, which the Trump administration has described as a defensive measure, raised concerns about further instability of the Middle East.

Germany issued a statement earlier this month characterizing the U.S. strike against Soleimani as a reaction to provocations from Iran, reiterating the need to deescalate the situation. 

Last week, Iran launched retaliatory missile attacks against Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, which did not result in any casualties. The Trump administration unveiled new economic sanctions to penalize Iran last week but the president has thus far held off on further military action.

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The Trump administration has described the Soleimani strike as a defensive measure aimed at preventing “imminent” attacks being plotted by Iran, though officials have remained tight-lipped about the details of those plans.

Lawmakers have complained about the lack of detail provided by administration officials in classified briefings regarding the intelligence that led to the strike.

Trump asserted in an interview with Fox News last week that Iran was planning to target four U.S. embassies, including the embassy in Baghdad. However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he didn’t see specific evidence that Iran planned to attack four embassies. 

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