Sunday, December 14, 2003

Hot Corner: Nipping at the heels of the newsmakers

Canada's PM is a blogger

Paul Martin, who became Canada's prime minister Friday, is a fiscally conservative Liberal who promised improved U.S./Canadian relations while criticizing George W. Bush's Iraq policy. He also may be the first major world leader to be a blogger.

Martin succeeds Jean Chretien, who retired. The new PM is a former finance minister who balanced Canada's budget. He said he might establish a Cabinet-level committee on Canadian-U.S. relations, which were sometimes strained under Chretien. But this past week he said Bush's plan to exclude countries outside the U.S.-led coalition from bidding on lucrative rebuilding contracts in Iraq was "difficult to fathom." He can plumb those depths when the two meet in Mexico at the January Summit of the Americas.

The low point of Canadian/American camaraderie under Chretien occurred early this year when the prime minister dismissed an aide who called Bush a "moron."

If you're curious about the thoughts and policies of the new leader of the United States' closest ally, check out Martin's Web site (www.paulmartintimes.ca/home), where you can read the Web log (blog) he started keeping last year.

Location, location

Looking for an adequate space to house the U.S. embassy in Iraq, American officials are said to be seriously considering one of Saddam Hussein's most ostentatious former palaces. The place just needed a little remodeling - such as removal of the 30-foot bronze busts of Saddam in a Mogul helmet that adorned the roofline.

Beheading the palace won't erase its symbolism, however. "If we want a credible signal that we'll fade into the background after liberating the country, the choice could hardly be worse," said Richard K. Betts, director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University in New York.

We agree. Find some other digs.

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