LONDON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday told Canadian diplomats of her disappointment over Ottawa's decision to opt out of a U.S.-led anti-ballistic missile shield program.
U.S. officials have made no secret of their unhappiness with the Canadian stance. Last week Rice deferred plans to visit America's northern neighbor early in her tenure at the State Department, although her spokesman said the change was not a sign of Rice's displeasure.
Canadian diplomats requested a short meeting Tuesday with Rice on the sidelines of an international conference on Palestinian reform.
She met for 10 to 15 minutes with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, said a Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said Rice made clear her disappointment with Canada's stance.
Canada announced its decision on the missile defense system last week, setting off a prickly exchange between the U.S. ambassador to Canada and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. U.S.-Canada relations were already clouded by strong Canadian opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States will "continue to work with Canada and cooperate with them on shared defense priorities. We've had good cooperation on defense issues in the past, and we will in the future."
McClellan said the missile-defense issue was likely to come up at a three-way meeting this month between Bush, Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Rice would meet with her Canadian counterpart and discuss a "mutually convenient date" for her trip.
An early visit to Canada had been among Rice's early priorities as secretary of state. She plans to visit the United States' southern neighbor, Mexico, next week.
Martin said last Friday that the United States must get permission before firing on any incoming missiles over Canada.
"This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said.
At the same time, he acknowledged that it was the Americans who would ultimately determine whether to shoot down an incoming missile from a terrorist or a rogue state.
"I don't think that anybody else expected that there would be any other finger on the button other than an American," he said.
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said in late January, "We think it's in Canada's sovereign interest to be in the room to decide what's going to happen when there's an incoming missile."
Cellucci denied media reports that Bush told Martin that a future president might question why American taxpayers were funding Canadian defense if Ottawa didn't support the U.S. missile shield.
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