Canada legislators win more time to end standoff

Tue May 11, 2010 2:35pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian government ministers and opposition legislators won more time on Tuesday to try to end a parliamentary power struggle that could trigger an early election.

House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, in a ruling two weeks ago, had given the two sides until Tuesday to sort out their differences over whether Parliament could see documents relating to the treatment of Afghan prisoners captured by Canadian troops.

Milliken, acting on a request by both sides, agreed on Tuesday to let the talks run until Friday. A spokeswoman for the speaker said the new deadline would be 1:30 p.m. ET that day.

The opposition parties have demanded to see uncensored files on the detainees, but the minority Conservative government has refused, citing national security issues.

Both sides said they were in good spirits after Tuesday's talks but offered few details.

"Talks are progressing and I'm optimistic as usual," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told reporters.

The crisis started when the House of Commons, which is controlled by opposition legislators, was denied unrestricted access to the detainee files.

The opposition wants to see the documents because it suspects the government knew prisoners handed over by Canadian troops to Afghan authorities were likely to be abused.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses a news conference after an EU-Canada summit at the European Council in Brussels May 5, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir</p>