Canada may call Afghanistan confidence vote: media

Wed Feb 6, 2008 8:53am EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper may call a confidence vote as early as next week over prolonging Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, according to two Canadian media reports, and defeat for his minority Conservative government would bring an early election.

In reports on their Web sites, CTV News and the Globe and Mail newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying Harper was ready to seek the confidence motion. It could be a risky gambit, as opinion polls show no party with a chance of winning a majority if there was a new election soon.

"The government could fall if the (opposition) Liberals do not support it since the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are against Canada's extension of the NATO mission," CTV said.

The left-wing New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc both oppose extending the mission, which is based in the volatile southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

The Liberal position is more ambiguous and Liberal support for a confidence motion would keep the Conservatives in power.

Almost 80 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and opinion polls show that half of all Canadians want the troops to leave next year, when the mission expires.

An independent report released last month recommended the troops stay only if certain conditions are met and the government said on Tuesday it would adopt those recommendations.

Harper's government, elected in January 2006, already has stayed in power longer than the 18 months that minority governments have averaged in the past. The next election is scheduled for October 2009.

(Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Bill Trott)