UPDATE 1-Canada PM says confident Keystone XL pipeline will be approved

Mon Jan 6, 2014 2:01pm EST
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(Adds comments, environmental protest, details, background))

By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER Jan 6 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday he was confident that TransCanada Corp's controversial Keystone XL pipeline would be eventually approved by U.S. authorities.

U.S. President Barack Obama is set this year to decide the fate of the northern leg of the proposed project, which would carry crude from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama is under heavy pressure from environmental activists to block the pipeline.

"I am confident that in due course - I can't put a timeline on it - the project will one way or another proceed," Harper said during a question-and-answer session at the Vancouver Board of Trade.

The event was disrupted when two climate protesters walked onto the stage and held up signs as they stood next to Harper. One of the placards said "Climate justice now."

Green groups say building the pipeline will speed up extraction of oil from the tar sands - a process that consumes more energy than regular drilling.

Harper's chief spokesman declined to comment on the security breach.

Canada's right-leaning Conservative government strongly backs the pipeline and Harper repeated his view that he hoped Washington would approve it, given what he said was the strong support for the project among American politicians and the general U.S. population.   Continued...