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Old 06-21-2003, 03:46 PM   #1
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Bush & Chretien alike because they both arrive at meetings early!

U.S.-Canada relationship `pretty much' normal again, envoy says Cellucci insists hurt has healed over Iraq

`Our ties are too deep and too long-standing'


HALIFAX—The tiff is over.

That's the message the U.S. ambassador to Canada was plugging here yesterday, assuring business groups, broadcasters and media that our southern neighbour is no longer angry about Canada's refusal to join the war in Iraq.

"Our ties are too deep and too long-standing, we are too connected and too interdependent to let any one thing upset the U.S.-Canada relationship," Ambassador Paul Cellucci told business people gathered for breakfast at a waterfront warehouse.

"Things are pretty much back to normal. It's in each of our national interests to keep working together."

Cellucci made headlines on both sides of the border earlier this year when he slammed Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's decision to keep Canada out of the war in Iraq.

The sharp criticism was not directed by Washington, Cellucci revealed yesterday, saying it was his own personal message he delivered about the hurt feelings of all Americans.

"We often hear that Canadians are sensitive about what the president might say. Well, Canadians have found out we're sensitive too," Cellucci told a broadcasters' convention. "I had a message to deliver that day and I tried to do it respectfully, and with perspective. I thought it was important that people in the Canadian government know, or knew, or should have known, that there was disappointment in Washington."

Cellucci said he told one of U.S. President George W. Bush's closest advisers what he planned to do, but insisted it was his own initiative.

"It was my decision to do it, but I talked to (National Security Adviser) Condi Rice the day before. She also thought it was the right thing to do."

Relations between the two countries have been battered in several ways in recent years. Canada's decision not to join the U.S. in an invasion of Iraq was just the largest rift between the long-standing allies.

Last year, Chrétien's communications director resigned after she was quoted as calling Bush a moron, and Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre) was quoted as calling Americans "bastards" shortly before the war began. Chrétien was rebuked by the White House this spring when he criticized the U.S. deficit and Bush's economic policies.

U.S. officials have expressed dismay over Canadian plans to liberalize marijuana laws and there have also been ongoing trade tensions over softwood lumber and other issues. Bush cancelled a long-planned visit to Ottawa last month.

But Cellucci yesterday characterized the relationship between the two countries as stronger than ever, and said hurt feelings over insults and foreign policy are a thing of the past.

In fact, he said, Chrétien and Bush have far more in common than differences, despite their frequent conflicts.

"They get along quite well and are very much alike," he said. "Both arrive at meetings a minute or two early. Both have been underestimated. Both are very professional. There are a lot of similarities."

Pamela Wallin, Canada's consul-general in New York City, agreed, comparing the recent disagreements to the fights in a healthy, complex family.

"Husbands and wives can fight and it doesn't mean that they each take a kid and head for the hills," said Wallin, who joined Cellucci in a panel discussion on U.S.-Canada relations.

Cellucci praised Canada for helping the United States after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, both by sheltering stranded travelers and by joining the war in Afghanistan.

"You opened your homes, your schools, your churches and your hearts to us and we will never forget that."
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