PM says Canada will not join war on Iraq
Date: Monday, March 17 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics
From CTV News Net
Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Monday Canada will not join a military campaign against Iraq without the support of the United Nations Security Council.
"If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate," Chretien said to cheers in Parliament.
"We believe that Iraq must fully abide by the resolution of the United Nations Security Council. We have always made clear that Canada will require the approval of the Security Council if we were to participate in a military campaign."
"Over the last few weeks, the Security Council has been unable to agree on a new resolution authorizing military action. Canada worked very hard to find a compromise to bridge the gap in the Security Council. Unfortunately we were not successful," Chretien said.
Chretien said he still hoped that war could be avoided but admitted he was "not very optimistic."
"If there is a war, of course Canada will be there to help the victims of a war," Chretien said.
Chretien added that Canadian forces currently participating in the war against terrorism will continue to be deployed in the Arabian Sea and Afghanistan. And he said Canadian forces would likely be involved in a peacekeeping or reconstruction role after any possible U.S.-led military action against Iraq.
Opposition Leader Stephen Harper said the government's decision to send troops to Afghanistan while failing to support the U.S. position on Iraq is sending mixed signals to Canada's allies.
"I think what we're going to see is a very different world in terms of security," Harper told reporters. "Canada has distanced itself from our historical allies and is really nowhere on the map.
"It is very likely that the U.S., Great Britain and their allies will be at war with Iraq. We'll (Alliance Party) be cheering for our allies and if the Liberals are going to be cheering for Saddam Hussein then they should have the guts to say so."
Defence Minister John McCallum denied that Ottawa is sending a contradictory message.
"We support the UN and our multilateral decisions...and secondly we support our allies in the fight against terrorism."
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said he didn't anticipate any surprise in diplomatic circles regarding Chretien's statement.
"I believe that our position has always been the same," Graham said. "They (Americans) probably would have preferred a different answer."
NDP House Leader Bill Blaikie said the government should go one step further and hold a vote in Parliament over the legitimacy of an attack on Iraq without a second resolution.
But Chretien rejected the idea, saying "the government has taken a very clear position."
Late in the afternoon, House Speaker Peter Milliken agreed with a request from the Bloc Quebecois and set aside time Monday evening for an emergency debate on Iraq. MPs will be given a chance to speak their minds on the Iraq issue but there will be no vote. Milliken agreed with the Bloc that the matter is pressing and deserves immediate attention.
As well, Graham will speak to reporters following U.S. President George Bush's address to the American people.