Keystone overshadows U.S.-Canada border deal

Wed Dec 7, 2011 5:12pm EST
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By Laura MacInnis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he wanted answers to the environmental questions about the Keystone XL pipeline, whose delay overshadowed a new U.S.-Canadian border agreement announced on Wednesday.

Standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House, Obama rejected an effort by Republicans in Congress to tie support for the $7 billion project to a payroll tax extension and insisted a final decision would follow a "rigorous" review process apart from politics.

"Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut, I will reject," Obama said, responding to the move by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to link the pipeline to the middle class tax cut Obama has been campaigning for.

"It shouldn't be held hostage for any other issues that they may be concerned about. And so my warning is not just specific to Keystone. Efforts to tie a whole bunch of other issues to what's something that they should be doing anyway will be rejected by me," he said.

Harper said the U.S. president had an "open mind" about the fate of the proposed TransCanada pipeline to transport Albertan oil to the Gulf of Mexico, which the White House put on hold until 2013, after next November's U.S. election.

"He's indicated to me, as he's indicated to you today, that he is following a proper (process) to eventually take that decision here in the United States, and that he has an open mind in regards to what the final decision may or may not be," Harper said.

The two leaders, who addressed themselves by their first names and described themselves as friends, both referred to "candor" in their closed-door conversation at the White House where Keystone was a major issue. They addressed the press after that meeting to unveil plans to modernize the U.S.-Canada border and synchronize their regulations to help exporters.

COOPERATION   Continued...