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Wednesday July 18th, 2018 10:50AM

The Latest: Melania Trump, NATO spouses visit music academy

By The Associated Press
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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump's trip to Europe (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump is visiting a music academy near the Belgian capital as her spouse and other world leaders attend a NATO summit.

Trump, who is accompanying President Donald Trump on a weeklong trip to Europe, stopped Wednesday at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo, near Brussels.

The 48-year-old Trump wore a navy blue Calvin Klein calf-length dress with white and green detail on the lapel and white Louboutin heels with their trademark red soles.

The spouses were welcomed to the music center by Amelie Derbaudrenghien, the partner of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and Ingrid Schulerud, the wife of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. They toured the center and attended a piano and violin concert.

Other participating first ladies include Brigitte Macron of France and and Emine Erdogan of Turkey.

___

3 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he's thinking about American farmers even as he meets with NATO allies in Brussels.

Trump says in a two-part tweet Wednesday that he's "in Brussels, but always thinking about our farmers."

Critics have warned that Trump's antagonistic trade moves will harm American farmers who grow crops like soybeans.

But Trump says "Farmers have done poorly for 15 years" and blames "Other countries' trade barriers and tariffs" for "destroying their businesses." He's pledging to open "things up, better than ever before" but says "it can't go too quickly."

Trump says "I am fighting for a level playing field for our farmers, and will win!"

The tweet came as Trump attended a closed-door meeting of the North Atlantic Council. Staffers often send tweets for the president.

___

2:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is participating in a welcome ceremony with fellow NATO leaders at what's expected to be a fraught meeting of the military alliance.

Trump was spotted chatting with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH'-jehp TY'-ihp UR'-doh-wahn) during public portions of the opening.

But he appeared to steer clear of German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours after claiming her country was controlled by Russia. He also walked far behind the leaders of the U.K. and Canada during a walking tour of NATO headquarters.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (yehnz STOHL'-tehn-burg) is stressing the need for the allies to stick together, saying, "We owe our success to our unity."

___

12 p.m.

President Donald Trump is set to meet Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hours after he publicly claimed that the longtime U.S. ally is "totally controlled" by and "captive to Russia."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump will reiterate his public criticism of Merkel during their pull-aside on the margins of the NATO summit in Brussels.

Trump fumed during a Wednesday meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that a Russian natural gas pipeline project in Germany is "very inappropriate" as he criticized European countries' contributions to the mutual-defense alliance.

Sanders says Trump will also meet Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron.

___

11:20 a.m.

Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II will welcome President Donald Trump and his wife Melania at Windsor Castle where they will watch a military march before having tea on Friday.

The palace said Wednesday the president will be greeted by an honor guard formed of the Coldstream Guards and will receive a royal salute before the U.S. national anthem is played.

Trump and the queen will review the honor guard before watching a military parade. Trump and his wife will then have tea with the queen inside the castle.

The palace did not specify if the queen's husband Prince Philip would attend. The 97-year-old Philip has retired from public duties but sometimes appears in public with the queen.

The visit is part of Trump's first trip to Britain since becoming president.

__

9:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is asserting that Germany is "totally controlled" by and "captive to Russia" over a pipeline project during a testy breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (yehnz STOHL'-tehn-burg).

Trump is taking issue with the U.S. protecting Germany when the European nation is making energy deals with Russia.

The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would double the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany, skirting transit countries such as Ukraine. The project is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members.

Trump says of Germany: "We're supposed to protect you against Russia" and yet you make this deal with Russia.

Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences.

__

9:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is pressing NATO allies to bolster their defense spending as he opens talks with leaders of the military alliance. Trump says the disproportionate defense spending an "unfair burden on the United States."

Trump says at the start of his meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that "because of me" NATO has raised more than $40 billion in defense spending.

Trump says, "So I think the secretary general likes Trump. He may be the only one but that's OK with me."

The U.S. president has called upon NATO allies to meet commitments to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

Stoltenberg says "a strong NATO is good for Europe."

__

8:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (yehnz STOHL'-tehn-burg) at the start of a summit of the military alliance.

Trump is expected to continue questioning wary NATO allies about their military spending during talks in Brussels.

He tweeted en route from Washington that European counties "want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn't work!"

Trump's day will include a welcome ceremony, a meeting of the North Atlantic Council and a working dinner with some of the same leaders he berated over trade during his last world leaders' summit in Canada last month.

Brussels is the first stop of a weeklong European tour that will include stops in the United Kingdom and a meeting in Helsinki with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

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