WASHINGTON – President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien met in Detroit Monday to showcase a new program aimed at making the U.S.-Canadian border tougher for terrorists without holding up business and tourism.
Though no mention was made during a ceremony inaugurating a new border security system, the president's main focus in a private meeting with the Canadian leader was on taking the war on terrorism into Iraq.
Publicly, the president said that the United States and Canada had launched a new agreement to ease traffic at the borders while shoring up security concerns. The "Smart Border" plan allows new technology to clear more efficiently and quickly the $1.3 billion in goods that cross the border each day.
Bush said that after Sept. 11, a new program was needed to allow the openness of the two societies to continue without terrorism interfering.
"We realized at least in our country that we have become a battlefield, and we have got to confront the threats. We have no choice but to confront the threats head on while we preserve the freedom and the openness of our societies," Bush said near the Ambassador Bridge, a U.S. Customs station that connects the Motor City with Windsor, Ontario.
"We want our inspectors to be able to focus on the greatest risks, not on legitimate trade and travel. We want their time focused on stopping terror and criminality."
Specifically, Bush outlined "FAST" -- the Free and Secure Trade program that will allow American and Canadian goods to pass through the border. The program allows American and Canadian companies to register goods, trucks and drivers with the border patrol. When the trucks approach the border, patrols will direct them through special lanes in which they can verify the contents and identities of trucks as they pull up, reducing stop times to seconds.
The plan also allows individuals who cross the border frequently to apply for photo IDs that they will receive after a security screening. Drivers with the photo IDs will be allowed to move quickly through dedicated lanes.
Bush and Chrétien endorsed the plan in December.
"The vast majority of the people who cross our border pose no risk to either country ... the goal of the terrorists is not to conquer us by force of harm, but by force of terror, to intimidate us into retreating from our openness and to abandon the pillars of prosperity and freedom which support our quality of life. But Mr. President, you and I know that freedom is a very stubborn thing and that it will prevail," Chrétien said.
But the Canadian prime minister was less enthusiastic about Bush's sell for changing the leadership in Iraq from its current president Saddam Hussein.
Last weekend, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who visited Bush at Camp David on Saturday, emerged with the president to say that they were on the same page in terms of preventing Iraq from proceeding with the unfettered development of weapons of mass destruction. Blair is assembling a dossier that administration officials say won't provide 100 percent proof but should be enough to make a case to stop Saddam.
Chrétien, who has expressed doubts about the need for military action, has equivocated on whether Canada would join a U.S.-led military action.
Chrétien said last Thursday that he has yet to see evidence that would justify Canadian support for a military campaign, but added he is willing to listen to the U.S. president.
"I will see what he has to say -- I will listen and we will decide," Chrétien said at the time.
But on Monday, the Canadian prime minister spoke a more connected tone with the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
"The American people can be proud of what you have accomplished in their name. And the Canadian people are deeply proud that our armed forces have fought side by side in defense of justice and freedom with American soldiers in Afghanistan," Chrétien said.
But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that Bush "did not ask him for anything in the meeting" and Chrétien made no promises.
Canada has supplied special forces troops, other soldiers, ships and planes as logistical support in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.
Bush is looking to further expand that support, and not just from Canada.
Bush phoned U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday as well as the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, one of the few countries in the region with U.S. military bases that hasn't already rejected U.S. hopes of launching an attack against Iraq.
Bush is expected to tell the United Nations in a Thursday address that the world must act quickly to deal with Iraq or the United States will act alone. Blair suggested that the United Nations could get involved, but weeks or months of debate are unacceptable. He said the U.N. must be a way of dealing with the problem, not avoiding it.
Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that the president will tell the international body that its credibility is at stake.
"I think he'll spend part of the time focusing on the fact that the Security Council and the U.N. in effect have been treated with a certain amount of contempt by Saddam Hussein," the vice president said.
"Part of what's involved here is whether or not they're an effective organization, and they're the ones who have addressed the issue time after time after time. And he has ignored the U.N. with impunity and there's been absolutely no consequence for his having done so," Cheney added.
The president also took time on Monday to chastise the Senate for lumping together a series of amendments that he says will reduce the effectiveness of the Department of Homeland Security, which the Senate is voting on this week.
"I do not need a bunch of rules and regulations trying to micromanage the process. I want the ability to look the American people in the eye to say we're doing everything we can to protect you. So the Senate, the United States Senate, must not focus on narrow special interests, but must focus on the security of the American people."
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.