stephen harper 88.
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An Egyptian resolution condemning Arab suffering in the Lebanon war was blocked by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper over its double standard towards Israel on the final day of the 11th Organisation International de la Francophonie (OIF) summit in Bucharest on Friday. The OIF comprises 53 member states and 10 permanent observers sharing a French linguistic or cultural heritage.
It was wrong for the OIF to express regret over the loss of Arab life, while remaining silent on Israeli casualties, the conservative party leader told a televised press conference.
Harper's support for Israel and his refusal to accept the Arab-backed amendment to the final Bucharest Declaration prompted outrage from Lebanese delegates and nearly derailed the conference.
"We wanted to condemn the war because it was deplorable," Lebanese Culture Minister Tarek Mitri told CBC. "Everyone agrees, except Canada."
The agenda for the OIF's biennial meeting on September 28-29 focused on education, information technologies and communication, but was expected to include discussion of the war and its effects on member-state Lebanon.
The divisions over the declaration were revealed at the final press conference after Harper failed to join Romanian President Traian Basescu and French President Jacques Chirac and on the dais.
After waiting three minutes for him before the assembled press corps, Chirac sent an aide to fetch Harper.
After prepared statements were read, Chirac responded to a journalist's question on the status of the final declaration, stating Egypt had offered an amendment which had led to further negotiations which had not yet been completed. "The majority supported the amendment, but Canada was hostile to it," he said.
"Canada believes that any resolution has to be balanced, that we should recognize the victims in both Lebanon and Israel," Harper said.
Victims of war "must be recognized regardless of their
nationality", he noted. "We are able to deplore the war, we are able to recognize the victims, but on both sides."
"I think that we all want to avoid is a similar attack on Israel in the future, a similar response and a similar war," Harper added.
Chirac stated he agreed with everything Harper had said, but encouraged the OIF to find a compromise position "to save face."
Speaking to the Bucharest Daily News after the press conference, Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said Romania would back the Canadian position that an "unbalanced" declaration was unacceptable.
After a closed-door 30 minute session, the OIF unanimously adopted a statement that "calls for a cessation of hostilities and a return to calm in Lebanon" and "deplores the tragedy in Lebanon and the dramatic consequences for all civilian populations."
"We could have been spared these long hours" and "acrimony and bitterness" over Canada's objections, Mitri told CTV at the close of the conference, but stated in the end his government was pleased with the final document.
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