- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

CHICAGO, Feb. 14 (UPI) — With the latest polls finding nearly three in four Canadians believe their southern neighbor's reputation will suffer if America moves militarily on Iraq, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is urging the United States not to act without support from the United Nations.

One the eve of the latest report to the U.N. Security Council by weapons inspectors, Chretien told the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Thursday evening he is "convinced … the United Nations will fulfill its obligations to the world community."

He added: "We recognize and respect the leadership that the United States is showing in forcing Saddam Hussein to abide by the resolutions of the United Nations."

Chretien acknowledged Saddam is a "threat to peace in his region" but said the United States needs U.N. approval for any action against Iraq to avoid being seen as a bully.

"The price of being the world's only superpower is that its motives are sometimes questioned by others," Chretien said.

A poll released Thursday by the daily Toronto Star found that firm 70 percent of Canadians — particularly women — believe a war in Iraq would damage the image of the United States. Whether Canada's reputation would suffer along with their traditional ally and trade partner came down to a split, according to the quarterly Toronto Star/Altamira Investment Confidence Index.

"Great strength is not always perceived by others as benign," he added. "Not everyone around the world is prepared to take the word of the United States on faith."

"We must all be concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," he said. "I argue, however, that the long-term interests of the United States will be better served by acting through the United Nations than by acting alone."

The Canadian leader said focusing on Iraq distracts attention from other crises like North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Canada is considered the United States' closest ally and the two countries share a 3,000-mile border. During a visit to the USS Philippine Sea in a Florida port on Thursday, President George Bush called on his closest allies to support his hardline stance on Iraq.

"I'm optimistic that free nations will show backbone and courage in the face of true threats to peace and freedom," he told the sailors and other navy personnel in a speech.

Bush's words came the same day Ottawa announced plans to send 300 personnel and a ship to the Persian Gulf to help build up international presence in the area.

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