Chrétien hedges on troops to assist retaliatory strike
By DANIEL LEBLANC AND JEFF SALLOT
Thursday, September 13, 2001
OTTAWA -- Canada treats a terrorist attack against any one of its NATO allies as an attack against itself, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said yesterday, but he refused to commit Canadian troops to retaliatory strikes against foreign targets.
Mr. Chrétien said he and his government officials have been in contact with other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Group of Eight industrialized countries to discuss a "collective" response to the attacks.
"Six of the eight members of the G8 are members of NATO, and when one of our allies is attacked, we are all under attack," he said.
The Prime Minister toughened his rhetoric on the second day of the terrorist crisis, as more and more fingers pointed to Islamic culprits.
"We don't know who perpetrated this terrorist attack, which is the equivalent of a war attack," Mr. Chrétien said.
"Who is the exact enemy? I will not speculate at this time. I'm sure that the Western world has to react and that the Western world will react."
He would not comment on the possibility of Canadian involvement in a U.S.-led military action. His Foreign Affairs Minister, John Manley, said it was too early to talk about collaboration in military strikes. "We would need more information first and that question is premature," he said in an interview.
Mr. Manley said Canada was a strong backer of NATO's resolution of support for the United States. That opened the way for allies of the United States to endorse U.S. military action against the perpetrators of the New York and Washington attacks.
"The council agreed that, if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article Five of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all," a NATO statement said.
Mr. Chrétien refused to speculate on reports that some of the terrorists involved in the attacks had recently been in Canada, though he did say that investigators are looking into it.
Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, refused to single out Canada for any role it could have had in the attacks.
He said he suspects that the terrorists came to North America through both Canada and the United States.
"It's a two-way street," he said.
At a news conference, Mr. Cellucci advocated having fewer officers along the Canada-U.S border, allowing easier movement of legal travellers, coupled with more resources for the monitoring of people coming into North America.
"The money that we would have put into having more officers and inspectors on the border, I think, would be better spent on intelligence and law enforcement, so that we can get these terrorists and others who seek to break the law in our countries before they get here."
In a statement, Finance Minister Paul Martin sought to reassure Canadians of the stability of the economy.
"Canadians can be confident that their financial system is sound. The Bank of Canada has assured the public that it will provide the liquidity necessary to support the stability of the Canadian financial system and the continued functioning of financial markets," he said.
Mr. Chrétien said that in a conversation yesterday morning, U.S. President George W. Bush thanked Canadians for their help throughout the crisis, in particular for welcoming planes that had been headed to the United States.
Like hundreds of Canadians, both Mr. Manley and Mr. Chrétien gave blood as part of relief efforts.
As flags flew at half-mast in Ottawa, the Prime Minister also announced that Canada will join European countries next week in an official day of mourning for the victims.
He said he agreed with opposition parties there should be a debate on terrorism issues in the House of Commons starting Monday, when the fall sitting starts.