Canada's Prime Minister Denies Rift With US Over Iraq

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

( - Soft pedaling comments he made a week ago, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien now says there is no rift between the United States and its Western allies, including Canada, about Washington's willingness to act unilaterally following the September 11th terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.

Chretien spoke on Sunday after a meeting of Western leaders at the Network for Progressive Government meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

Chretien defended the war on terrorism, saying the West is united on the issue. He added that Iraq is not linked to the September 11th attacks on the United States. But he believes the international community should be concerned about Iraq's weapons production.

Last week, Chretien said that neither Canada nor the other American allies would be able to stop the U.S. from launching a military campaign against Iraq.

According to a Radio Canada report, the Canadian government has been resisting pressure by the United States to support a military strike against Iraq.

Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham last week told the House of Commons that Canada doesn't exclude any military option on Iraq, including a military option, but America's northern neighbor prefers to work initially through the United Nations.

The minister, according to Radio Canada, also told the House that Canada opposes Iraq's attempts to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, but that the government would have to study the situation carefully before making any type of military commitment.

Brian Pallister, a House member of the opposition Canadian Alliance Party, said Canada should fully back the U.S. against Iraq, even if it leads to armed conflict. Pallister said terrorism has thrived in Iraq just as it has in Afghanistan.

Before leaving for Asia, President Bush said he was considering the option of a military attack on Iraq. At the time, he said Saddam "needs to understand I am serious."

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