Trump slams 'dumb' refugee deal with Australia

Reports suggest President Trump had a heated phone call with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull

Trump slams 'dumb' refugee deal with Australia

President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office. Picture by Alex Brandon AP/Press Association Images

Donald Trump has slammed a deal made to take refugees from Australia, amid reports of a heated phone call with its prime minister.

On Twitter, the US president said he would "study this dumb deal" over "illegal immigrants", referring to an agreement reached between Australia and the Obama administration late last year.

Under the terms of the deal, the US would re-settle up to 1,250 asylum seekers, most of whom are held in processing camps on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

In return, Australia would take refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

But during Mr Trump's weekend conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the US president is reported to have described the refugee agreement as "the worst deal ever".

According to The Washington Post, he also accused Mr Turnbull of trying to export the "next Boston bombers", referring to Tamerlan and Dhozkar Tsarnaev, Kyrgyz-born US citizens who set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon.

Three people were killed in the blast and more than 260 injured.

Mr Trump reportedly told Mr Turnbull: "I don't want these people." He is also reported to have said that he had spoken to four world leaders that day and "this is the worst call by far".

He is reported to have told Mr Turnbull that it was "my intention" to honour the deal, words that would leave him room to back out.

About 25 minutes into the call, which had been expected to last an hour, Mr Turnbull reportedly tried to steer onto other topics, such as Syria.

But Mr Trump had had enough and, despite Australia being one of the US's staunchest allies, he cut their conversation short, the Post said.

Mr Turnbull would not confirm the reports, saying: "It's better that these things - these conversations - are conducted candidly, frankly, privately."

The Australian leader told reporters: "The fact we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance."

There are also mixed messages coming from Washington DC.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that Mr Trump had agreed to honour the deal but a White House statement sent to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday said Mr Trump was "still considering whether or not he will move forward with this deal at this time".

The State Department also said the US would honour the agreement "out of respect for close ties to our Australian ally and friend".