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Rice calls off Ottawa trip after missile defence snub
Globe and Mail
Tuesday, March 1, 2005 Updated at 2:01 PM EST
Globe and Mail Update

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has cancelled a trip to Ottawa planned for next month, a sign of the chilly reception Frank McKenna can expect when he arrives in Washington Wednesday to take up his post as ambassador.

Mr. McKenna will arrive at his post with the waters still roiled by Ottawa's decision to opt out of the U.S. anti-missile shield.

The move by Ms. Rice is the most public note of disapproval to come from the Bush administration since Prime Minister Paul Martin made his decision known late last week. To make sure that the slight was understood, a White House official told an Associated Press reporter that the cancelled trip was the direct result of Mr. Martin's decision.

Ms. Rice was to have come to Ottawa in April but will instead hold off that trip indefinitely. She is in London Tuesday for a Mideast conference, looking at ways to support the Palestinian Authority. At the request of Canadian officials, she was to have met briefly with Ottawa's representatives on the fringes of the conference.

A meeting between Mr. Martin, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox is being planned, presidential spokesman Scott McLellan told his daily briefing Tuesday. He said that details for the previously scheduled meeting, expected later this month, are still being worked out.

Mr. McLellan said that missile defence wouldn't necessarily come up at that meeting. He demurred when asked whether Mr. Bush would use the chance to push again for Canadian support for the program.

"Our views are very well known," he said. "... we have, for a long time, worked in a co-operative manner with Canada on defence priorities that we both share. I expect we will continue to do so."

Mr. McKenna steps into the role of ambassador Tuesday but will not actually arrive in Washington for another day. He replaces Michael Kergin, who in his farewell address Monday mentioned the difficulty being noticed in Washington. He acknowledged in the speech that "there is much which can bedevil our bilateral relations" but argued that the two nations remain tightly linked.

"We are extremely close but distinct," Mr. Kergin said. "That distinctness brings respect on both sides and I think the closeness breeds an understanding that, when the chips are down, we'll always be together and allies."

Also this week is an advocacy mission led by Trade Minister Jim Peterson. Scheduled biennially to coincide with the start of the new congress in the United States, the expedition includes MPs from all parties, senators and industry representatives. A CBC report from the scene in Washington indicated that it was well-attended and that the Alberta beef being served was particularly popular.

Although ties between Canada and the United States remain generally strong, most analysts say, Mr. Martin strained relations with his decision to refrain from supporting missile defence.

Canada had not been asked to provide either money or resources for missile defence. It already has an indirect role in the program because of its participation in NORAD, a defence pact instituted in 1958 that had been modified to including tracking incoming missiles.

Mr. Bush had obviously expected Mr. Martin to face down his rebellious caucus and uncertain population — as had been done on other issues by other U.S. allies, including Britain and Australia.

He made a public appeal for Canadian support during a visit after his re-election last November and also urged Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to back the plan, according to Tory insiders.

According to several accounts, Mr. Bush was incredulous that Mr. Martin had instead let missile-defence critics take charge of the issue, and he now feels that the Canadian leader has failed to show leadership.

With Canada pulling out of missile defense, we're seeing more of the new world order. The US has little or no influence with our allies or enemies. This comes after the EU went against Bush and dropped the arms embargo against China and Russia going against Bush and selling nuclear technology to Iran.

Three major foreign policy defeats in a few weeks.