Angela Merkel backs US congresswomen attacked by Trump

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Media captionAyanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib responded to the attacks at a press conference on Monday

German Chancellor Merkel has expressed her solidarity with four US Democratic congresswomen who were attacked by the US President Donald Trump.

Ms Merkel said Mr Trump's tweets went "against what makes America great", and she said that the strength of America lay in its ethnic diversity.

Mr Trump was widely accused of racism for saying that the congresswomen should "go back" to the countries they came from.

All four women are US citizens, three of them were born in America.

Mr Trump denied allegations of racism but his remarks were widely called racist and were criticised by the leaders of several US allies, including the UK prime minister Theresa May.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she utterly disagreed with Mr Trump's comments, while Ms May described the tweets as "completely unacceptable".

Canada's PM Justin Trudeau said: "That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian."

What did Chancellor Merkel say?

At Friday's news conference in Berlin, Ms Merkel said: "I firmly distance myself from (the attacks) and I feel solidarity with" the four US congresswomen.

"The strength of America lies in that people from different (origins) contributed to what makes the country great," she said.

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Image caption Chancellor Merkel criticised President Trump's comments at her annual news conference in Berlin

Ms Merkel's relationship with Mr Trump has been formal and firm, unlike the visibly warm relationship she shared with the previous US President Barack Obama.

What's the row about?

The four US congresswomen attacked by Mr Trump were representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

The first three were born in the US, while Ms Omar was born in Somalia but came to the US as a child refugee.

Last week, Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ms Tlaib and Ms Pressley angered the president by testifying to a House committee about conditions in a migrant detention centre they had visited.

Democrats have widely criticised the Trump administration's approach to border control, saying they are holding migrants in inhumane conditions. Mr Trump insists the border is facing a crisis and has defended the actions of his border agents.

His administration announced a new rule to take effect on 16 July which denies asylum to anyone who crosses the southern border without having applied for protection in "at least one third country" on their way to the US.

Mr Trump claimed that the conditions at the detention centre visited by the congresswomen had "great reviews".

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Media captionPresident Trump defends racially charged tweets

On Tuesday, he followed his initial attacks on the congresswomen by accusing them of saying "filthy and hate-laced things".

He also insisted: "Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don't have a Racist bone in my body!"

How have Democrats and Republicans responded?

Democrats roundly condemned the president and many were quick to call his remarks racist.

But senior Republicans remained mostly silent. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: "I don't find [the remarks] racist, the president just went on and clarified his comments."

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