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Canada Leader Skips Hussein Funeral

February 8, 1999

TORONTO (AP) _ Opposition parties chided Prime Minister Jean Chretien for staying on his ski vacation Monday instead of joining other world leaders at King Hussein’s funeral.

Leaders from every other Group of Eight nation, even Russia’s ailing President Boris Yeltsin, traveled to Jordan to show their respect for Hussein. Chretien, however, remained at Whistler, British Columbia, sending Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy to represent Canada instead.

``One can see that it could be taken as an insult,″ Progressive Conservative Party leader Joe Clark. ``I hope it will not limit the role Canada will play in Jordan and in the Middle East.″

Chretien’s office said the funeral was scheduled so quickly after the announcement of Hussein’s death Sunday that the prime minister was unable to travel from the Pacific coast to Jordan in time.

``The prime minister had every intention of going,″ said Chretien spokeswoman Jennifer Lang. ``But it was impossible to travel to Amman on time.″

However, Deborah Grey, deputy leader of the right-wing Reform Party, said it had been evident for several days that Hussein’s death was imminent and Chretien should have changed his plans.

``Maybe it would have been good for him to put the little ski trip on hold,″ she said.

Bob Mills, the Reform Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, said Chretien had put himself in the company of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein by missing the funeral.

``I’m shocked the prime minister would do that,″ Mills said.

Relations between Canada and Jordan have been warm, and Hussein visited Canada several times during his reign.

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