Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Protesters, police clash at Canadian summit

`THREE AMIGOS'Riot police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators at a leaders' summit aimed at harmonizing trade and security between the US, Canada and Mexico


Thousands of protesters 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 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, at this third installment of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit.

Dressed as clowns and guerrillas, protesters chanted "Bush go home!" and waved "No to Americanada" placards along the tree-lined shores of the Ottawa River, 80km 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 G7 leaders met in 1981.

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

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

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

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

On Monday night, the three leaders dined together and would hear from the North American Competitiveness Council yesterday 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 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 US and Mexico invited to take part.

"Society is not represented at this summit," protester Guillaume Tremblay told reporters. "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 said, surrounded by demonstrators jostling with officers outside a fence, 3m high and running 2.5km 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.

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