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Canadian diplomacy taking tougher approach: Harper

Talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia Pacific summit in Hanoi illustrate Canada's new, tougher style of diplomacy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday.

Talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia Pacific summit in Hanoi illustrate Canada's new, tougherstyle of diplomacy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday.

But a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Harper and Hu had spoken only briefly, and issues such as human rights were not raised.

At a news conference after Sunday's closing ceremonies in the Vietnamese capital, Harper said the meeting with Hu showed how his government's approach to foreign policy was different than those of Liberal governments, and he denied that tough talk about human rights would endanger trade relations with China.

There was a brief diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa in advance of the meeting.

Canadian officials said last week that China had backed out of plans for formal bilateral talks at the Vietnam summit because of concerns that Harper would raise the case of Huseyin Celil, a Chinese-Canadian sentenced to 15 years in prison on terror charges.

China has not recognized his Canadian citizenship, and Celil's family says as a Muslim activist, he is the victim of religious and political persecution.

Harper says the issue was discussed but not in any detail.

"We raised issues very generally, very briefly," the prime minister told reporters after the summit's closing ceremonies, "It was a 15-minute discussion.We were able to raise a couple of issues specifically, but obviously we didn't have a full, in-depth discussion of every issue."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao was more categorical: He said human rights had not been discussed.

"I don't know who raised those issues," Liu told Canadian reporters. "No, no, I don't think that human rights were raised during the meeting."

Confirming that Celil's case had been raised, Liu repeated China's contention that the Burlington, Ont. man, who came to Canada as a refugee, is a Chinese citizen.

Family welcomes talks

Those working for Celil's releasewelcomed Harper's talks with Hu.

Chris MacLeod, a lawyer representing his family,said Harper's commitment to address the issue with Hu shows Canada won't tolerate China's disregard for international law or its poor treatment of Canadian citizens.

"I was very pleased to see the prime minister raise the case and stand up for Canada when they're being pushed around abroad," MacLeod said Sunday in Toronto.

with files from the Canadian Press

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