May 14, 2010 / 3:27 PM / 8 years ago

Canada parties end Afghan dispute, avert election

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian political parties averted an early election on Friday when they sealed a deal to end a dispute over access to documents on the transfer of prisoners to authorities in Afghanistan.

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at a signing ceremony for the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement in Ottawa May 14, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

“We have an agreement,” Bloc Quebecois legislator Pierre Paquette told reporters. A member of the main opposition Liberal Party later confirmed a deal had been reached.

Friday was the deadline for the minority Conservative government and the three opposition parties to end a standoff over the documents. Opposition legislators had demanded access to uncensored files but the government refused on the grounds of national security.

Had the two sides failed to reach an agreement, the House of Commons -- controlled by opposition legislators -- would then have voted on a motion to hold the Conservative government in contempt, likely triggering an election.

Political observers had widely expected an agreement, given that polls show no party could be certain of winning even a stable minority if an election were held now.

Paquette said that, under the terms of the deal, all the documents would be provided to a special committee of legislators, aided by a panel of experts. The committee would then decide which files to make public.

“All the documents will be available to members of Parliament and national security will be taken into account,” he said.

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

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson

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