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Trade, Security Top Issues for Bush and Martin in Canada

President Bush is in Canada, seeking to mend frayed ties with America's northern neighbor. His talks with Prime Minister Paul Martin ended with a pledge to strengthen cooperation on trade and security.

The president has made trips to Canada before for international and regional meetings. But this is his first official visit to the Canadian capital, a sign, some say, that he is seeking reconciliation with allies that opposed the war in Iraq.

At a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, the president said he understands that not everyone agrees with his views.

"But I am the kind of fellow who does what I think is right and will continue to do what I think is right," said Mr. Bush. "I will consult with our friends our neighbors, but if I think it is right to remove Saddam Hussein for the security of the United States, that is the course of action I will take."

He spoke of Canada as a neighbor and friend, and indicated he believes its differences with the United States can be overcome. The prime minister agreed, saying they have shared values.

"In fact, we agreed to put forward an agenda in which the two countries can cooperate in a practical way toward common goals," said Mr. Martin.

Both men spoke of the need to join forces to combat terrorism and promote free trade. Canada and the United States have the world's biggest bilateral trading partnership with more than $1 billion in products crossing the border each day.

Mr. Martin said their prosperity and security are linked. And President Bush vowed quick action on a thorny trade issue: restrictions on the importation of Canadian cattle imposed by the United States immediately after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in the western province of Alberta.

"I fully understand the cattle business," said Mr. Bush. "I understand the pressures placed on Canadian ranchers. I believe that as quickly as possible young cows ought to be allowed to go across our border."

A resolution of the issue is key for Prime Minister Martin who has talked of his desire to ease tensions with the United States that were exacerbated when his predecessor Jean Chrétien chose not to send troops to Iraq.

As he was welcoming President Bush to Ottawa, thousands of protesters were gathering in the Canadian capital, most of them opposed to the war in Iraq and proposals for including Canada in the U.S. missile defense program.

There were reports in the Canadian news media that the president declined an invitation to address Canada's parliament because he might be heckled by members who oppose his policies. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan shrugged off the reports, saying the president wanted to speak directly to the Canadian people.

Mr. Bush will do just that on Wednesday when he visits Halifax, Nova Scotia. Aides say the president wants to thank the residents of Nova Scotia and surrounding provinces for the help and comfort they provided to thousands of American travelers when U.S. airports were shut down and flights diverted following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.