Bush Has Landed
US President George W. Bush arrived today for his first working visit, met with Prime Minister Paul Martin for a couple of hours, and the PM emerged to tell the press both leaders would act in 2005, cooperating on terrorism and forging ahead with North American prosperity plans.
Very early in the day, indications were the President would be likelier to meet with more opposition at a Washington Cabinet meeting dominated by Condoleezza Rice than in Canada. Accounts said about 20-30 protesters gathered in Ottawa preparing to greet Bush, while 42 journalists muscled their way past the demonstrators. Within hours, busloads from Toronto, Montreal, and across the country arrived, swelling the ranks to what organizers say will be a sizeable crowd numbering some 15,000 at the very least. Clashes with area police are now being reported.
At their joint press conference, Martin stressed there were major points of agreement. While there is divergence on many foreign policy matters, there is profound unity on some. Bush, for instance, finds commendable Canada’s willingness to contribute humanitarian aide to Iraq. And speaking about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, both leaders stood firm disputes in that country must be settled calmly, through dialogue. Bush added he hoped any resolution would reflect “the will of the people.” But when it really comes to the thorny question of Iraq, there appeared to be little common cause. Defending his policies, Bush said: “I made some decisions that some in Canada obviously didn't agree with…I'm the kind of fellow who does what I think is right.” When queried directly about his “unpopularity” in the Great White North, the President replied: “I haven't seen the polls you look at…We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years.”
All indications are there will be no speedy settlement when it comes to outstanding bilateral trade issues. For his part, Bush expressed a measure of sympathy with Martin’s “frustration” at the slow pace of progress. In any event, the leaders will be dining on Alberta beef. [all direct quotations in this piece cited from Deb Riechmann’s “Bush Defends Iraq Decisions in Canada,” AP, 30 November 2004].
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