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Response to attacks on Bush-Chretien agenda

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, left, and U.S. President Bush met to discuss Canada's contribution to the fight against terrorism.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, left, and U.S. President Bush met to discuss Canada's contribution to the fight against terrorism.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush met Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to discuss the international response to the terror attacks in New York and Washington, and issues of security along the two nations' vast border.

Bush and Chretien -- fresh from discussions at noontime Monday -- revealed to reporters that they discussed Canada's contribution to the international fight against terrorism. In addition to border security, issues such as military contributions, diplomatic efforts and financial endeavors were likely to have been discussed.

"We've got a great partner in our neighborhood," Bush said of Canada and of Chretien, as the two walked along the outer White House colonnade en route from the Oval Office to a working lunch.

When Chretien called on September 11 to express the horror of the Canadian people and offer condolences, Bush said, "It was like getting a call from a brother."

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Canada, Bush said, is "like family."

"Freedom is under attack. We have combined against a new enemy... We have a mutual responsibility in our hemisphere to find and disrupt terrorist organizations."

Chretien expressed similar sentiments.

"We are your neighbors, friends and family," he said. "We have to work together. This problem concerns all nations of the world."

Chretien said he would discuss elements of his Monday talks with Bush at an upcoming meeting of Commonwealth nations in Australia, and a subsequent summit of "Francophone," or French-speaking and influenced nations, later in the year in Lebanon.

Canada reportedly is prepared to offer military forces to the campaign. Some of the possibilities that have been reported include ground troops, CF-18 jet fighters and naval frigates on the front lines.

Other reported contributions include offering more CF-18 jet fighters for joint patrols of North American skies and Canadian soldiers for peacekeeping duties in Bosnia to free U.S. troops there for duty elsewhere.

Canadian Defense Minister Art Eggleton said Sunday on CBC Newsworld that "we may have to rework how some of our forces are currently deployed," and said there are limits on how much Canada can contribute because of the size of its military.

Chretien criticized at home

The Canadian prime minister has been criticized for his responses to the crisis, and Bush, in his speech to Congress on Thursday night, didn't mention Canada but thanked other nations by name.

The Bush administration denies it snubbed Canada, and Chretien said he does not think he was slighted.

"There should be no doubt in anyone's mind about how honored we are to have the support of the Canadians," Bush said Monday, adding that he suspected someone in Canada was trying to "play politics" with relations between the two Northern Hemisphere neighbors.

"Now is not the time for politics," he said. "Now is the time to develop a strategy to fight and win the war."

Chretien has said he was the first international leader to speak with Bush after the attacks, and that the president has thanked Canada for its help. The country accepted more than 200 U.S.-bound jetliners when the attacks forced the closing of airspace. Those airliners, he said Monday, bore 45,000 Americans.

But conservatives in Canada said Chretien has been unwilling to join other nations in immediately promising full military support.

He also has been criticized for failing to schedule a visit to ground zero in New York. Chretien's office said his presence might hamper recovery efforts.

Canada: No immigration changes

In the wake of the attacks, attention has focused on Ottawa's immigration policies, which critics said have made Canada a safe haven for armed groups wishing to launch assaults against the United States.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley said Canada would not bow to pressure to curb its liberal immigration policies and urged U.S. politicians to abandon any thoughts they might have about increasing controls along the two nations' undefended 3,100-mile border.

No link has so far been established between Canada and the attackers, a point Manley was at pains to underline.

The CBC reports that Progressive Conservative Leader Joe Clark said Chretien should let Bush know that Canada stands ready to help militarily in the war on terrorism.

"I think the prime minister should take the opportunity (Monday) to make it clear Canadian airspace and landing sites would be available if there is any need," Clark told the CBC.

The CBC also reported that Clark said many Canadian aid workers across the globe could use their influence and contacts to help locate terror cells.

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