May 25, 2017 / 1:34 PM / 3 months ago

Trump praises Macron's 'great job' to win French election

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) gestures beside French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated French leader Emmanuel Macron on Thursday for doing a "great job" to win this month's election while Macron said the two men would be able to change many things together.

The presidents, meeting for the first time since Macron was elected on May 7 after a turbulent campaign, shook hands firmly before lunch in Brussels, with Macron gripping Trump's hand so tight that it turned white.

Trump told Macron it was an honour to be with him, saying he had run "an incredible campaign and had a tremendous victory".

"All over the world they are talking about it and we have a lot to discuss including terrorism and other things. Congratulations, great job," he said before the lunch at the U.S. ambassador's residence.

Macron, a newcomer to international diplomacy, replied that he was very happy to be with Trump, who he will see again later on Thursday at a meeting of NATO leaders.

"We have an extremely broad agenda to discuss on the subjects of the fight against terrorism, the economy, climate and energy," the 39-year-old president said.

"This NATO summit is also a chance for us to have a first meeting and I am very happy to be able to change a lot of things together," he said, speaking in French.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) meets French President Emmanuel Macron before a working lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017.Peter Dejong/Pool

Macron, without his wife Brigitte, was greeted on the doorstep of the U.S. ambassador's residence by Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

The two men sat down to a lunch of tomato and mozzarella followed by veal filet and Belgian chocolate mousse.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who Macron defeated to win the French presidency, said before the election that she was best placed to defend France's interests in what she called the "new world" of Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

After a policeman was killed in Paris in April by a suspected Islamist militant, Trump told the Associated Press he thought the attack would "probably help" Le Pen because she was the candidate who is "strongest on borders". However, he said he was not explicitly endorsing Le Pen.

At an earlier meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Macron pressed Europeans to strengthen security cooperation after 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, on Monday.

"Beyond solidarity, it's obviously European cooperation that we need to reinforce, in the field of intelligence, information sharing, the protection of our common borders," he said.

The French president will also meet his Turkish and Polish counterparts and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday.

Writing by Michel Rose and Adrian Croft, editing by Ed Osmond

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