Canadian official sees no rift with U.S. over Chretien’s Cuba trip

OTTAWA (AP) — Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s upcoming visit to Cuba is unlikely to cause any serious friction with the United States, Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said Tuesday.
“They understand that we have a different position,” said Axworthy, basing his view on a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile.
Axworthy, speaking outside a Cabinet meeting, said it was clear in Santiago that other Latin American nations want to end Cuba’s isolation.
“There is quite a strong push on in the entire hemisphere for a different approach to Cuba, including them in the inter-American system,” Axworthy said. “I think, frankly, the prime minister’s visit is a very crucial timing to help build that bridge. I think it really can provide a significant step.”
Chretien’s 30-hour visit to Havana next Monday and Tuesday will be the first by a Canadian prime minister since Pierre Trudeau met Cuban President Fidel Castro 22 years ago.
Canada is one of Cuba’s major trading partners. It has long opposed the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and has fought against U.S. legislation that penalizes some foreign firms — including Canadian ones — doing business on the island.