WASHINGTON – President Bush has decided to postpone a trip to Canada next month because of the Iraq war, U.S. and Canadian officials said Sunday.
News of the postponement came about two weeks after Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien canceled a trip to Washington following criticism from the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
The ambassador, Paul Cellucci, said the American government was upset and disappointed that Canada failed to join the U.S.-led military coalition fighting in Iraq.
Bush's one-day trip to Ottawa, tentatively scheduled for May 5, was meant as a forum for cross-border issues.
Chretien disclosed Bush's decision Sunday during a trip to the Dominican Republic.
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White House spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed the postponement several hours later, without offering a new date for the meeting. Two White House officials said none has been set.
"The postponement is due to the president's ongoing obligations to help the people of Iraq build a nation that is whole, free and at peace," Fleischer said.
Chretien did not indicate whether he thought the cancellation was a result of Ottawa's refusal to support the U.S.-led invasion without U.N. approval.
Relations between the two countries have been strained in recent months by the war and other issues.
The United States last year imposed tariffs averaging 27 percent on softwood imports from four Canadian provinces, contending that government subsidies kept Canadian lumber prices artificially low and threatened the U.S. industry. Canadians say softwood exports to the United States fell sharply after the tariffs were imposed, forcing mills to lay off thousands of workers.
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said it was time for Ottawa and Washington to put tensions sparked by the war behind them.
"I think we need to move on," Manley said. "We've got a series of things that we need to be doing now. That includes the work on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction in Iraq."
Chretien planned to meet with former President Clinton while in the Dominican Republic. Clinton was to arrive there Monday.
Chretien described the timing as a "coincidence" but indicated the two would likely meet, saying "we are good friends."