Protests at day one of North America summit - August 21, 2007
noimage by Michel Comte Tue Aug 21, 3:20 AM ET

Photo: US President George W. Bush (R) and Mexican President Felipe Calderon shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Quebec. Thousands of protestors on Monday clashed with riot police at the venue near Ottawa, decrying a summit of North American leaders on bolstering security and economic ties(AFP/Mandel Ngan)

MONTEBELLO, Canada (AFP) - Thousands of protestors on Monday clashed with riot police at this log cabin inn near Ottawa, decrying a summit of North American leaders on bolstering security and economic ties.

With bursts of drums and kazoos, demonstrators taunted host Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US President George W. Bush and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, at this third installment of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit.

Dressed as clowns and guerillas, protestors chanted "Bush go home!" and waved "No to Americanada" placards along the tree-lined shores of the Ottawa River, 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Canada's capital.

Riot police, using tear gas, pepper spray and batons, blocked an estimated 5,000 demonstrators at the gates of the historic cedar Chateau Montebello, where Group of Seven leaders met in 1981.

Louis Banal, a Quebec police spokesman, said one protestor was arrested, and two officers were injured in the melee.

The summit aims to harmonize North American trade rules and security following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, when closed US borders cost all three countries billions of dollars in lost trade.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon was forced to clip his visit to Canada short as powerful Hurricane Dean roared towards the Mexican coast.

Calderon said he would depart after the summit and return to his country on Tuesday ahead of schedule to monitor the advance of the giant storm, which is expected to hit the Yucatan peninsula early Tuesday.

Monday night, the three leaders dined together and would hear from the North American Competitiveness Council on Tuesday on proposals to boost the continent's competitive edge in key sectors.

On the summit sidelines, Bush and Harper discussed border inspections, bilateral trade, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and Canada's disputed Arctic claim, a senior Canadian official said.

Harper also informed Bush that Canada would only extend its troop deployment in Afghanistan beyond February 2009 with "parliamentary endorsement," she said, adding. "That doesn't preclude that that endorsement wouldn't be forthcoming."

The annual summit was launched in March 2005 in Waco, Texas as the "Three Amigos" summit.

But it has been criticized since by a range of activists, labor groups and academics as having an excessive focus on business interests, with 30 top executives from Canada, the United States and Mexico invited to take part.

"Society is not represented at this summit," protestor Guillaume Tremblay told AFP. "Bush, Harper, Calderon and a handful of businessmen are making important decisions about our future and we're not even consulted."

"We want a public debate," he demanded, surrounded by masked demonstrators jostling with officers outside a fence, three meters (10 feet) high and running 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) around the meeting place.

A perceived lack of openness in the negotiations has provoked the ire of anti-globalization activists, environmentalists, peace activists, and civil rights groups -- united in their suspicions of the outcome.

Several of the demonstrators, refusing to remain in a forest clearing set up for them by summit organizers, vowed to try to get closer to Bush, Harper and Calderon to make their views known.

But they were far outnumbered by police with dogs, in aircraft and on river boat patrols.

In talks between the Canadian and US leaders, Harper also drew Bush's attention to former US envoy Paul Cellucci's recently expressed view that it is in the US national interest to have the disputed Northwest Passage considered part of Canada.

This would "enable the Canadian navy to intercept and board vessels in the Northwest Passage to make sure they are not bringing weapons of mass destruction into North America," Cellucci told broadcaster CTV.

Dan Fisk, senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on Bush's National Security Council, countered: "I think it's fair to say that the president came away with a far better understanding of Canada's position."

"(But) we continue to believe that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway."

Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway are at odds over 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic seabed, believed to hold 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.


Labels: SPP, Protest, War On Democracy, Oil
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