Clinton rebuke overshadows Canada's Arctic meeting

Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:34pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a rare public rebuke to close ally Canada on Monday, criticizing it for excluding key nations from a meeting to discuss the resource-rich Arctic.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon gathered his counterparts from Russia, Norway, the United States and Denmark for three hours of talks on Monday on the grounds that they were the only nations with Arctic coastlines.

The decision prompted unhappiness in Sweden, Finland and Iceland, who are also members of the eight-nation Arctic Council -- traditionally the body where most important decisions on the region are taken.

"Significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region," Clinton said in a statement issued before the meeting had even begun.

"I hope the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new divisions."

Global warming is gradually melting the Arctic ice cap, raising the possibility of increased shipping and mineral extraction in the remote and environmentally sensitive region.

Canada and the United States have very close ties and Clinton's statement was the first open official rebuke of Ottawa since the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq War, which Canada refused to participate in.

Cannon spent much of his closing news conference responding to questions about Clinton's statement and insisting he was not trying to marginalize the Arctic Council.   Continued...