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Harper won't seek Parliament's okay to extend Afghan mission

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference at the G20 Summit in Seoul.

Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

Extending Canada's military mission in Afghanistan does not require Parliament's approval because the new approach will focus on training, not combat, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.

In 2008, Mr. Harper opted to seek Parliament's support for a motion extending Canada's military mission in Afghanistan through to July 2011, a vote the government won easily 198-77.

But this time is different, Mr. Harper answered when asked if another extension, one that is focused on training Afghan soldiers in Kabul until 2014, would require a similar vote.

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"My position is if you're going to put troops into combat, into a war situation, I do think for the sake of legitimacy, I do think the government does require the support of Parliament," he said. "But when we're talking simply about technical or training missions, I think that is something the executive can do on its own."

The Prime Minister said he was aware however of recent comments made by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae that he said indicated they support a new training mission.

"Look, I do note that the Liberal party, Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae have indicated for the past several months that they favour a training mission," he said. "If they have any specific ideas they want to share, I'm not resistant to having debates on that matter in the House of Commons. But I do think when it comes to decisions such as this, the government has to be free to act."

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Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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