Unclear if 2010 peace push will mean ceasefire

Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:30pm EDT
 
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver will promote world peace, but organizers said on Friday they cannot say if that means Canadian troops in Afghanistan will maintain a ceasefire during the Games.

The tradition of an Olympic truce goes back to the original Games in ancient Greece, and Canada is expected to propose a United Nations resolution calling for a cessation of world hostilities during 2010 Games in February.

Canada has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan engaged in fighting against the Taliban-led insurgency, and they are scheduled to be there during the Olympics, before ending their combat role in 2011.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee has no specific plans to make a ceasefire request to the Canadian government, which has provided significant funding to the Games and will be in charge of the C$900 million ($841 million) security operation.

"We will not be entering into that kind of discussion with Canada, but Canada will be putting this resolution before the United Nations. We believe it will be supported by every country," said John Furlong, VANOC's chief executive.

A spokesman for Defense Minister Peter MacKay said any questions about plans for a ceasefire would have to be answered by NATO, since Canada is in Afghanistan as part of the multinational force.

VANOC will soon unveil plans for its truce program that will focus on children and promote "peace in everyday life," organizers said."

Furlong said he strongly believes that sports can play a role in promoting peace. "People of sport have always believed that when you're playing you're not fighting," he told reporters following VANOC's board meeting.

During the ancient Olympics, the truce period allowed athletes and pilgrims to travel safely to and from the prestigious competitions.

($1=$1.07 Canadian)

(Reporting by Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>Canadian soldiers conduct an operation in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province, September 17, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>