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CANNES, France (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday he sees overwhelming U.S. support for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline to Texas from Canada's oil sands, despite recent signs of reticence in Washington.
Harper, who was in France for the G20 summit, said he did not interpret U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks this week as pointing to a rejection of the $7 billion pipeline proposal, which is opposed by environmental groups.
"I read the President's comments. I thought on balance they were noncommittal and he indicated he had yet to make a decision and we respect that," Harper said.
Obama told a Nebraska television station that he would make the final call on approving the pipeline based on economic and health criteria. Previously, it was believed that the responsibility for making the decision had rested with the State Department. Meanwhile, the State Department said its own process could slip past its year-end deadline.
"(The pipeline) has, notwithstanding opposition in some circles, if you look at the range of business and labor and state interests, overwhelming support," Harper said. "It's a project that not only will create a vast number of jobs in both our countries but is essential to American energy security."
Harper and his government have lobbied intensely in support of the project, which would connect refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast with Alberta's oil sands.
Canada's oil industry says the pipeline will bolster U.S. energy security by providing a stable source of oil from a friendly neighbor. Environmental groups, some U.S. politicians and numerous celebrities, say the project will delay the shift to a green economy and increase the risk of oil spills in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Ogallala aquifer in the central states.
Reporting by David Ljunggren, writing by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Peter Galloway