TORONTO – Canada's refusal to join the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Iraq has upset and disappointed the United States and caused a "bump in relations," U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said Tuesday.
In a speech to a business breakfast and in later comments to journalists, Cellucci said the Canadian position showed that Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government was less concerned about security threats than the United States.
"They support the global war on terror, but they're not supporting us fully," Cellucci said.
Raising his voice during the speech, he said that if Canada faced a security threat, the United States would respond immediately.
"There would be no debate. There would be no hesitation. We would be there for Canada," Cellucci said. "That is why so many in the United States are disappointed and upset that Canada is not there for us now."
Chretien has said the lack of U.N.-backing for the war on Iraq prevented Canada from taking part.
Cellucci called the issue a "bump in relations" between the North American neighbors and strategic allies that share the world's largest trade partnership, worth more than US$1 billion a day.
He said there could be some repercussions against Canada in U.S. policy, but he refused to elaborate.
However, Cellucci noted that Canada's role in the war on terrorism includes Canadian warships in the Gulf and some Canadian military planners working with U.S. and British forces in the Gulf region.
"Ironically, the Canadians indirectly provide more support for us in Iraq than most of those" 46 countries in the coalition fighting against Saddam Hussein's leadership, Cellucci said.
He said several times that security would be the top U.S. priority, and would be more important than trade and economic issues as Canada and the United States continue to negotiate measures to increase border security while allowing commerce and traffic to flow freely.