President Trump says Russia should be at G7 meeting

WASHINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday Russia should also be attending a Group of Seven nations summit, a controversial idea that even Moscow seemed to reject, as he headed for a chilly reception at the meeting in Canada, where other G7 leaders are set to clash with him over trade.

Russia was expelled from what was then called the G8 in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Trump said it should be readmitted, an idea that was unlikely to gain any traction at the G7 gathering, which groups Canada, the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany.

"You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out, they can let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table," Trump told reporters before leaving Washington.

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President Donald Trump attends the G7 summit
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One at Sigonella Air Force Base at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One at Sigonella Air Force Base at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) is greeted by Italy's Chief of Protocol Riccardo Guariglia (L) as he arrives aboard Air Force One at Sigonella Air Force Base at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
US President Donald Trump arrives for the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, on May 26, 2017 at the ancient Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily. The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the US and Italy will be joined by representatives of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as teams from Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia during the summit from May 26 to 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Miguel MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and U.S. President Donald Trump talk as he arrives at the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
From R-L, U.S. President Donald Trump, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Britain?s Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Council President Donald Tusk arrive for a family photo during the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
From L-R, European Council President Donald Tusk, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Britain?s Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for a family photo during the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
From L-R, European Council President Donald Tusk, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe react during a family photo during the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) waves beside U.S. President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting at the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
From L-R, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain?s Prime Minister Theresa May gather as they attend the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump walks during the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
(L-R) The President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni pose after watching an Italian flying squadron as part of the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane De Sakutin/Pool
G7 Summit members, President of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L), U.S. President Donald Trump (L Rear), Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R Rear) and President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) attend the first working session in Taormina in Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Eliot Blondet/Pool
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A senior British government source said that Russia needs to change its approach before any conversation about it rejoining the G7 can begin.

A French presidential source said Trump's proposal did not seem "coherent" in view of the latest economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Moscow.

The Russian government also appeared to snub Trump's idea.

"Russia is focused on other formats, apart from the G7," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a brief statement reported by the government-controlled Sputnik news agency.

However, new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threw his weight behind Trump's call for Russia to be included, saying in a tweet it would be "in the interests of everyone."

Trump was heading into a bigger controversy over trade as other G7 leaders, including host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have been angered over Washington's imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from allies including Canada and the European Union.

At home, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer poured scorn on the Republican president's suggestion that Russia should be readmitted to the G7. “We need the president to be able to distinguish between our allies and adversaries, and to treat each accordingly," he said in a statement.

Trump has periodically called for closer ties with Russia, although his administration's policy has included strong sanctions against Moscow. While making his suggestion for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the president said on Friday that he had "been Russia's worst nightmare."

Trump's presidency has been clouded by a federal investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by Trump's campaign. Both Moscow and Trump have denied any such activity.

“The president’s support for inviting Russia back into the G-7, just after they meddled in the election to support his campaign, will leave millions of Americans with serious questions and suspicions,” Schumer said.

(Reporting by James Oliphant Additional reporting by Polina Nikolskaya in Moscow, Jean-Baptiste Vey, Crispian Balmer, William James in La Malbaie, Quebec, Writing by Eric Walsh Editing by Frances Kerry)

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