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Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves Ottawa on Thursday, November 26, 2009, for Port of Spain to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will head to Copenhagen next month for climate change talks, his office has announced.

The news came as Mr. Harper leaves the uproar over Afghan torture allegations behind in Canada and departs departed for Trinidad and Tobago to attend the latest summit of Commonwealth leaders.

The Caribbean visit takes place between two major trips on Mr. Harper's busy international travel calendar this fall. He just returned from a key visit to India and is readying for a keenly-anticipated tour of China next week.

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The Commonwealth meeting is to focus on the global economy and the promotion of democracy, human rights and good governance.

One hot-button item that could cause a stir and highlight divisions is a proposed law in Uganda that would impose life imprisonment on homosexuals.

Uganda's president is chairing this year's Commonwealth gathering of leaders from 53 former and current British colonies.

Mr. Harper's travel schedule means he won't be around for another day of opposition party questions on the treatment of Afghan prisoners after they left Canadian hands. A Canadian diplomat delivered explosive testimony last week when he told MPs that likely all the detainees handed over to Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service were tortured although most were innocent. Richard Colvin, posted in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007 said Ottawa ignored and then tried to suppress his warnings, although government officials now play down these cautions as lacking substance.

Another Commonwealth issue to be discussed in Trinidad is climate change, with a pivotal round of United Nations climate-change talks set for Copenhagen next month.

Senior officials say they don't anticipate getting a head start on a global greenhouse-gas deal at the meeting.

But the bulk of Commonwealth nations are smaller states most prone to the effects of global warming, and they may push climate change to the top of the meeting's agenda.

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With a report from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More


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