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COMMENT

Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

No need to praise 'a brother,' Bush says
Explains failure to thank Canada - Resume normal lives, PM urges - Pakistanis get ominous message

By BARRIE MCKENNA, The Globe and Mail
With reports from Shawn McCarthy in Toronto; and Jeff Sallot and Brian Laghi in Ottawa
Tuesday, September 25, 2001

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday that Canada is like "a brother" to the United States, so it shouldn't need public acknowledgment of its efforts since the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes.

Canadians and Americans shouldn't bicker over who snubbed whom when there's a war on terrorism, Mr. Bush said after a meeting at the White House with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

"I didn't necessarily think it was important to praise a brother," he told reporters before the leaders began a one-hour working lunch at the White House. "After all, we're talking about family."

Mr. Bush accused unnamed Canadians of trying to sour relations between the two countries for political gain by harping on his failure to thank Canadians during last Thursday's televised address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

"I suggest those who try to play politics with my words and drive wedges between Canada and me [should] understand that at this time, when nations are under attack, now is not the time for politics," he said, standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Chrétien in the White House Rose Garden.

Last night, after returning from Washington, Mr. Chrétien told a Liberal Party fundraising dinner that Canada will work with the United States to combat global terrorism, although he again offered no specifics about what that battle might entail. But he did say that Canadians must get back to business.

"There is absolutely no doubt that we'll have to devote energy, and a lot of energy, to deal with the threat of terrorism, and we will. But there is equally no doubt that the only way that the terrorists can win is if we do not get on as well with our daily lives and our daily business."

There were signs that the economy appeared to be doing that, as stock prices rallied across North America. But Canadian gains were offset by the announcement of 1,300 layoffs by the company that owns charter airline Air Transat. There was also speculation that Air Canada could announce more layoffs as early as today.

In Afghanistan, which is preparing for a military strike in response to the terror attacks, supporters of the ruling Taliban began taking over United Nations offices as a statement attributed to Islamic militant leader Osama bin Laden called for Pakistanis to rise up against Mr. Bush's "Christian-Jewish crusade."

Russia, which suffered a humiliating retreat in its campaign in Afghanistan during the 1980s, raised the prospect of returning there, albeit in a supporting role that would be limited to "search-and-rescue missions," President Vladimir Putin said.

He said Moscow will give more military aid to Afghan opposition groups.

Key Central Asian republics bordering Afghanistan joined in, saying they would allow U.S. warplanes to use their airspace and military bases to launch attacks on Taliban forces and suspected terrorist bases.

After yesterday's meeting with Mr. Bush, Mr. Chrétien pledged Canadian military help if required.

That including troops and equipment.

"The President did not ask me for any military help from Canada at this time," he told reporters.

"But I said to him if there is a need, we will be there to help him."

Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, said Washington may well ask for that help.

She denied that Mr. Bush has avoided asking Mr. Chrétien for more because he feels Canada's military is weak.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Canada has been with us in the past and we expect Canada to be with us in the future."

Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Bush agreed yesterday to review their countries' respective laws and practices to prevent terrorists from entering North America. But Canadian and U.S. officials insisted that the Bush administration is not pushing for harmonization of immigration or customs laws and procedures.

The two leaders agreed that it is up to each country to fight terrorism "in their own way," said Michael Kergin, Canada's ambassador to the United States.

"The word harmonization did not come up."

Those issues aside, the focus of Mr. Bush's remarks to reporters was last week's perceived snub. He said he was amazed that some Canadians "took affront" when he failed to mention Canada while praising the efforts and contributions of many other countries in last week's speech.

Mr. Bush offered his explanation without being asked about the incident -- less an apology than an explanation.

"We've got a great partner in our neighbourhood who understands what I know: that we are facing a new type of war," Mr. Bush said.

Many Canadians were outraged that Mr. Bush thanked countries as far away as Australia and El Salvador while overlooking the fact that Canadians housed and fed 45,000 stranded U.S. airline passengers in the days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In Ottawa yesterday, Progressive Conservative Leader Joe Clark said Mr. Bush could not have been referring to him when he suggested individuals were playing politics with his remarks. Mr. Clark was critical last week that Canada was left out of the speech but did not accuse Mr. Bush of slighting the country.

"I said, 'I wouldn't consider this a snub, I consider it, in fact, an indication that Canada is off the radar screen, and perhaps now we're back on the radar screen.' "

While Mr. Bush was mending fences with Canada, Mr. Chrétien stepped into a diplomatic controversy of his own by failing to visit New York, as many other visiting leaders have.

But the Prime Minister insisted that he chose not to go because New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told him it might hamper rescue and cleanup work.

"I obliged the wish of the mayor of New York, who is doing a fabulous job there," Mr. Chrétien said. "I did not want to complicate his life."

However, while Mr. Chrétien was in Washington, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was touring ground zero in lower Manhattan, where rescue workers continued to sift through the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers. Today, Mr. Koizumi meets Mr. Bush at the White House, the latest in a string of foreign leaders to visit Washington to sign on to the Bush administration's antiterrorist campaign.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac visited New York on their way to Washington last week.





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