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'Moron Bush' comment stirs Canada

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Not just Bush: Canadian aide 'calls everyone a moron'

By Mike Fox

BBC correspondent in Montreal

The Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, has refused to accept the resignation of a close aide who reportedly described the US President, George Bush, as "a moron".

Mr Chretien's communications director, Francoise Ducros, allegedly made the comments during a private conversation at the Nato summit in Prague which was overheard by a journalist.

Opposition politicians in Canada say the comments could damage US-Canadian relations.

The person said to be responsible has not confirmed using the word "moron".

But Ms Ducros reportedly expressed her frustration that President Bush was using the Prague summit to beat the war drums on Iraq and then described him as a moron.

In a statement, she said she regretted that any comments she might have made had attracted so much attention, but Mr Chretien refused to accept her offer to resign.

He joked that she had used the word "moron" against him and other people many times.

The only official reaction from the United States was to brush the incident away as insignificant.

But opposition politicians in Canada demanded to know why the government was defending an official whose comments were endangering relationships with their biggest trading partner.

Strained ties?

There have been a string of recent incidents which seem to hint at strains in relations between the two countries.

In the last few weeks, Canada's Foreign Affairs Office issued a travel warning to people from several Middle Eastern countries saying they should consider carefully whether to travel to the US because of increased incidents of people of Arabic descent being stopped at the border.

And for most of this year the US ambassador to Canada, Paul Celluci, has called on the Canadian government to boost military spending and make a bigger contribution to Nato and the US war on terrorism.

But during these and other apparent disputes, officials on both sides of the border have stressed that relations between the two countries are not suffering.

That does not stop many Canadian commentators worrying that their government is alienating their huge neighbour to the south.

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