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Bush Seeks Canada's Backing for Iraq Action

U.S. President George W. Bush continues to seek support for his tough stand against Iraq, making his case in person to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and telephoning other world leaders. The diplomatic push comes just days before Mr. Bush is scheduled to discuss Iraq in a major speech to the United Nations.

Canada is one of America's closest allies. But Prime Minister Chretien leaves no doubt he is skeptical about the need for military action against Iraq.

He said he went into the meeting ready to listen, perhaps to get a preview of the arguments Mr. Bush will put before the United Nations on Thursday. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters after the talks that the president made no specific requests for support, and the Canadian leader made no commitments.

The president and the prime minister met in Detroit, Michigan, not far from the U.S.-Canada border. They talked about Iraq in private. In public, they focused on border security.

At a joint appearance near a border crossing, President Bush spoke about the need to balance security concerns with the desire to expedite cross-border commerce.

"The ties of trade and travel and family between America and Canada are closer than ever," he said. "And our countries are better for it. Yet nearly a year ago, we saw the terrorists - cold blooded killers - using our openness, the openness of our societies against us."

Security on the border was tightened after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush said they are now taking steps to speed up border crossings for pre-approved cargo and passengers, so inspectors can "focus on the greatest risks, not on legitimate trade and travel. We want their time focused on stopping terror."

Prime Minister Chretien said the goal of terrorists everywhere is to create fear. But he said freedom is "a stubborn thing." And he vowed the defenders of freedom will prevail.

"On Wednesday, we will mark the solemn anniversary of a terrible day," said Prime Minister Chretien. "But let us celebrate today together the ingenuity and resolve that Canada and the United States have shown to ensure that our people can get on with their daily lives and our businesses can get on with business free from fear."

During the flight from Washington to Detroit, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush was making a number of calls during the day to leaders in Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Secretary General of the U.N., the Secretary General of NATO, and the prime minister of Denmark, who currently holds the presidency of the European Union.

Mr. Fleischer was then asked by reporters about an idea put forward by French President Jacques Chirac in an interview with The New York Times. Mr. Chirac suggested a two-stage plan for dealing with Iraq through the United Nations that could lead to the authorization of military force if Baghdad refuses to admit weapon inspectors.

The White House Spokesman said the comments of the French President indicate movement on the part of the international community to toughen U.N. resolutions against Iraq.