PM wants proof before backing attack on Iraq
Prime Minister Jean Chrtien says Canada will not support a U.S.-led strike against Iraq unless he is sure an attack is justified.
On Thursday, he repeated reservations about using military force to remove a leader simply because some western countries want him gone.
"I don't think that Saddam Hussein is a great democrat, and I would prefer to have somebody else there. But probably it would be the same thing with many other leaders in the world," the prime minister said.
Washington is trying to build an international coalition to support the removal of the Iraqi president. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has already endorsed the proposal, saying Saddam is too much of a threat to world peace.
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But Chrtien, who is set to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in Detroit on Monday, said he wants to see clear evidence that Baghdad now possesses weapons of mass destruction.
The prime minister wants UN inspectors to return to Iraq to find evidence of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. When asked exactly what kind of proof he needs, he put it this way:
"A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham told reporters Canada will probably need evidence that Iraq intended to strike the West with weapons of mass destruction before backing U.S.-led military action.
"Otherwise, there are lots of countries around that have weapons of mass destruction. We can't presumably attack them all," Graham said. Last month, Defence Minister John McCallum made a similar statement.
Canada remains committed to Washington's campaign against terrorism, Chrtien said. Ottawa withdrew its soldiers from Afghanistan during the summer.
The Canadian Alliance's foreign affairs critic, Stockwell Day, said Canada "should be very seriously looking at allying ourselves with Britain and the U.S" in any military action against Iraq. But NDP Leader Alexa McDonough strongly disagreed.
"It is a grotesque absence of leadership on the part of the prime minister to just kind of shrug and say, 'Sure Bush, bring on the evidence and then count us in on a war,'" McDonough said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that Washington may soon provide the world with details about the weapons it's certain that Iraq has.
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Arab states, meanwhile, stood firmly behind Iraq on Thursday. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa warned that a U.S. attack against Saddam would "open the gates of hell in the Middle East."