Canadá no participará en escudo misilístico

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) — Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday that Canada would opt out of the contentious U.S. missile defense program, a move that will further strain brittle relations between the neighbors but please Canadians who fear it could lead to an international arms race.
Martin, ending nearly two years of debate over whether Canada should participate in the development or operation of the multibillion-dollar program, said Ottawa would remain a close ally of Washington in the fight against global terrorism and continental security.
He said he intended to talk to President Bush later Thursday and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been informed of the decision earlier this week.
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had been informed beforehand of the decision, adding that Washington expects that cooperation with Canada will continue on a wide variety of issues.
Talking to reporters several minutes after his foreign minister first announced the move in the House of Commons, Martin said Canada would instead focus on strengthening its own military and defense in proposals laid out Wednesday in the federal budget.
«Canada recognizes the enormous burden that the United States shoulders, when it comes to international peace and security,» Martin said. «The substantial increases made yesterday to our defense budget are a tangible indication that Canada intends to carry its full share of that responsibility.»
The federal budget presented to the House of Commons calls for $10.5 billion in the next five years to increase the country’s beleaguered armed forces — including an additional 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists — the largest commitment to defense in two decades. It also called for another $807,950 to improve Canada’s anti-terrorism efforts and security along the unarmed, 4,000-mile border with the United States.
When Bush visited Canada in December, he surprised Ottawa by making several unsolicited pitches for support of the defense shield, which is in the midst of testing interceptors capable of destroying incoming missiles targeted at North America.
Martin, who leads a tenuous minority government, has said Ottawa would not support what he called the «weaponization of space.» Though he initially supported joining the program when he was a candidate for the Liberal leadership, Martin has retreated, since polls indicate that a majority of Canadians oppose it. Many believe that the umbrella, when fully implemented, could lead to an international arms race.
The Bush administration has tried to make a public show of understanding that Martin heads up a minority government that could fall over such a contentious debate.
But U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci told reporters Wednesday that he was perplexed over Canada’s apparent decision to allow Washington to make the decision if a missile was headed toward its territory.
«Why would you want to give up sovereignty?» he said. «We don’t get it. We think Canada would want to be in the room deciding what to do about an incoming missile that might be heading toward Canada.»

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