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Chretien’s Bush Remarks Bring Rebuttal

May 29, 2003

TORONTO (AP) _ Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s critical comments on President Bush’s handling of the economy drew a terse response Wednesday from the White House.

Chretien was quoted in Canadian newspapers as saying that the economy weakened under Bush, and he cited a projected $500 billion budget deficit as particularly harmful.

In response, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told his daily news briefing that the United States had additional expenses to meet, particularly involving national and global security.

``One of the reasons for that is the United States was attacked on Sept. 11; Canada was not. United States helped lead a war to bring freedom to the people of Iraq,″ Fleischer said, stopping short of mentioning Canada refused to take part in the Iraq campaign.

Chretien will report on the global economy at the upcoming G-8 summit in France, and his comments about the U.S. economy to reporters on the flight to Greece were considered a preview of what he’ll tell the other world leaders, including Bush.

The issue is among a list of differences between the North American neighbors that share the world’s largest trade partnership, worth more than $1 billion a day.

Despite their military ties and common democratic values, Canada has traditionally adopted more liberal social policies, in part to distinguish itself from its neighbor. Examples include diplomatic ties with Cuba, a ban on capital punishment and more lenient immigration policies.

Chretien insists his personal relationship with Bush is cordial. But his former communications director was quoted calling Bush a ``moron″ in a private conversation last year, and he initially refused her resignation. Bush has never invited Chretien to his Texas ranch and canceled a scheduled trip to Ottawa in early May.

In Ottawa, opposition parties and even some members of Chretien’s Liberal Party called the prime minister’s comments ill-timed.

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