Missile defence talks important for Canada: Graham

Defence Minister Bill Graham says the U.S. missile defence program does not involve putting weapons in space.

The proposed U.S. ballistic missile defence program does not involve putting weapons in space, and Canada must consider joining for the good of North America, said the minister of national defence.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, Bill Graham called the missile defence negotiations an important part of Canadian-American relations.

"I'm in favour of pursuing those negotiations," said Graham. "It's important to keep in mind we are partners in North America."

While Graham acknowledged he doesn't know what the U.S. is planning to do over the next 50 years, he said the ballistic missile program "has nothing to do with putting weapons in space,". He said the weapons would be based on land or possibly sea.

Graham repeated comments he made a night earlier in an address to Toronto's Royal Canadian Military Institute.

"We will not, for example, join any system that involves the weaponization of space," Graham told his audience.

But Canada must be open to talks with the U.S. about its ballistic missile defence plan since "our American colleagues are determined to pursue it and it will become a part of the defence architecture of North America whether we participate or not," said Graham.

He praised the Canadian-American co-operation he witnessed during a visit to the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defence Command last year.

"This is exactly the seamless co-operation that is required to address today's security challenges," said Graham.

The prime minister has made it clear to U.S. President George W. Bush that Canada does not support putting weapons in space, added Graham.

Earlier on Wednesday, in his address to the united Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Paul Martin called for a UN ban on weapons in space.