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With Cannon on the hustings, Canada sends civil servant to Libya talks

Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon gestures during a news conference at the Canadian Embassy in Rome on Feb. 24, 2011.

TONY GENTILE/Tony Gentile/Reuters

While Hillary Clinton and foreign ministers from around the world will meet in London on Tuesday to discuss the military mission in Libya, Canada will be represented by a civil servant.

Because of the Canadian election campaign, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will campaign in his riding in western Quebec while the high-level conference outlines what kind of Libya they expect after international military intervention.

Morris Rosenberg, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, will carry Canada's position at the high-level conference - in keeping with a Canadian tradition that sees civil-service officials, not politicians, attend international events during election campaigns. That tradition is a long-standing convention, though not a binding rule, and is also observed in Britain.

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A Canadian general, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, has been placed in command of the NATO-led mission that has pounded the air defences and ground troops of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

But questions remain about what the end goal of the mission will be - as rebels appear to be slowly gaining ground but Colonel Gadhafi's regime remains firmly ensconced in the capital, Tripoli.

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, leaving the United States on Monday for the conference, said the meeting would begin to focus on transition from Col. Gadhafi's rule. But several other allies have raised concerns about taking sides in a civil war, and some NATO countries including Holland, have refused to take part in striking ground targets in Libya.

Ms. Clinton and foreign ministers from about 40 countries, plus UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, are slated to attend.

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About the Author
Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More

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