[Imc-beirut] Canada's McKay: Hezbollah a "cancer", "cold blooded killers"
wy430 at victoria.tc.ca
Thu Aug 3 01:45:41 PDT 2006
Thu. Aug. 3, 2006. | Updated at 12:33 AM Toronto Star
MacKay answers government's criticsForeign affairs minister criticizes
Hezbollah Tories pandering to U.S. policy, say
New DemocratsAug. 2, 2006. 01:00 AMSEAN GORDONQUEBEC BUREAU CHIEF
OTTAWA-Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay used apocalyptic language
to condemn Hezbollah and brush aside suggestions by opposition critics
that he was absent during the early part of the latest Middle East
MacKay held fast to the federal government's unstinting support for
Israel, while also calling for an end to the bloodshed.
The minister attacked Hezbollah as "cold-blooded killers" and "a
cancer" that can't be trusted to suspend hostilities.
The opposition parties, which have led a cacophony of criticism
regarding Prime Minister Stephen Harper's characterization of Israel's
actions as "measured," had their first chance to grill MacKay on the
government's position at a special sitting of the Commons' foreign
MacKay was also confronted after the session by three members of the
Montreal-based Al-Akhrass family, which lost eight members - four of
them children - in an Israeli air raid on the southern Lebanon village
of Aitaroun last month.
One pushed a photo of his father's corpse into MacKay's hand as
another harangued the minister.
Polls show the Tories' approach to the Mideast crisis isn't popular
Though MacKay said "the utmost Israeli restraint is needed to avoid as
far as possible civilian casualties" - the first time Ottawa has made
such an admonition since fighting began three weeks ago - he left
little doubt as to where his government stands on the conflict.
"It is not our intention to shift the blame from the extremists who
caused this violence and want it to continue ... there is a marked
difference between a democratic country defending the lives of its
citizens and a terrorist army intent on death and destruction," he
He later told the committee that "it's not a difficult choice between
siding with a democratic state with an elected government ... or a
group of cold-blooded killers."
"Lebanon is being held hostage by Hezbollah, let there be no doubt
about that," he said. "Hezbollah are a cancer on Lebanon that are
destroying democracy and stability within their boundaries."
And though Canada supports an eventual ceasefire, MacKay didn't call
for an immediate end to the violence, saying that even if a truce were
brokered, he doubts it would be heeded by Hezbollah, which, as he
pointed out to the committee, is listed as a terrorist group in
"We are dealing with terrorists, I'm not even sure who speaks for
Hezbollah or whether they can even begin to keep their word," he said.
MacKay set out conditions to an eventual ceasefire that mirror those
demanded by the United States: that three Israeli soldiers kidnapped
by Hezbollah be returned unharmed, an immediate halt to the volleys of
Hezbollah rockets targeted at northern Israel, and an end to targeting
The position prompted accusations from New Democrat MP Alexa McDonough
(Halifax) that Ottawa is an adjunct of U.S. policy and that the Tories
have frittered away the country's international credibility as a
middle power able to bring diverging interests together.
"(This) puts us absolutely in lock-step with one party only and that's
the Bush administration, and almost entirely, obscenely, out of step
with practically every other member of the international community,"
she said.(but her party voted for stopping funds to hamas - js)
Bloc Québécois critic Francine Lalonde was similarly dismissive,
saying "he was very nice to us, but his answers weren't convincing."
The opposition also pressed MacKay to step up Canada's contribution to
aiding the roughly 800,000 Lebanese displaced by the conflict, and
demanded Ottawa formulate a strategy to evacuate thousands of
Canadians who are stranded in the country's bomb-ravaged south.
MacKay spoke gravely about the extent of the civilian death toll on
both sides - which he called "heartbreaking and shocking" - and about
the humanitarian crisis that now looms in southern Lebanon.
While MacKay said Canada hasn't envisioned sending soldiers as part of
an international "peace-making" force, he did say Ottawa plans to take
a leading role in addressing the humanitarian dimension of the
conflict, an idea sources said will be explored at a meeting of
Harper's inner cabinet today.
Proceedings were interrupted by Montrealer Hassan El-Akhras, whose
father was one of eight relatives killed in an Israeli bomb attack.
El-Akhras tried to address the committee, saying "my family was
assassinated" and "I have a right to speak, I'm a Canadian citizen."
Conservative committee chair Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot) ignored the
intervention, and an opposition political staffer led El-Akhras back
to his seat.
Later, El-Akhras and his cousins Rami and Mayssoun Al-Akhrass (the
family uses several spellings of its surname) had an animated exchange
with MacKay as he left the committee room. An aide to MacKay offered a
meeting with the family to discuss their immediate concerns, which are
the safe return of patriarch Ahmad Al-Akhrass - who is in hospital in
Beirut after surviving the bombing - and of other relatives marooned
MacKay detailed how his department has evacuated 13,052 Canadians from
Lebanon, and praised the work of the 860 civil servants who overcame
major logistical hurdles and made it happen.
Liberal MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East) attacked MacKay
for foot-dragging in setting up evacuation efforts to help the roughly
50,000 Canadians in Lebanon, saying, "Where were you, why were you
missing in action?"
MacKay shot back: "I was on the job, you may have been on television,
but I was meeting with officials."
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