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The Globe and Mail

There was no Harper tantrum, officials say

Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves following his speech to members of the business community in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday, August 9, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld


Talk of a diplomatic tiff is heating up Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Latin American tour, but officials insist everything is cool.

The Brazilian newspaper Folha reported Tuesday that Harper angered the country's president and her aides Monday by locking himself in a bathroom until Brazilian officials agreed to hold staged toasts before lunch rather than after.

Mr. Harper's officials flatly denied the report, dismissing it as "ridiculous tabloid journalism."

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Spokesman Dimitri Soudas said the plan was always to do the toasts off the top and denied any problems with the Brazilians over the timing.

"I've checked. This story is false," he said. "Bottom line guys, when these things happen it's because the team is fighting for you guys so you can get access."

A Brazilian Foreign Ministry official also denied the report.

"That's absolutely incorrect. It never happened," Carlos de Abreu said. "There was good chemistry between both delegations."

He said Mr. Harper went to the bathroom for "regular reasons."

"It is something that every human being has to do every now and then. Nobody would have negotiated that (whether to have toasts before or after.)"

However, journalists noted tension between Canadian and Brazilian officials during Monday's photo-ops with Harper and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

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The Brazilians barred journalists from the opening moments of a meeting between the two, then allowed media in for the end of the meeting.

At lunch, journalists were told they would be allowed to cover the toasts before the meal began. But again they were barred from the room as Canadian officials frantically negotiated with the Brazilians. The journalists were finally rushed in just in time to catch the toasts.

Word of the alleged discord came as Mr. Harper courted Brazilian business leaders Tuesday, saying he wants to get "friendlier" — especially when it comes to trade.

Mr. Harper is on a four-country tour of Latin America in an effort to boost trade and strengthen relations.

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