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Candian minister denies Sudan aid is to secure MP's vote

5/9/2005 6:17am

OTTAWA, Canada, May 8, 2005 (CTV) -- Defence Minister Bill Graham is denying that Canada's new commitment to Sudan is just an attempt to buy the vote of an independent MP that is critical for the life of the Liberal minority government.

"We've been be in Sudan much longer than David (Kilgour's) recent discussions with the prime minister," Graham said on CTV's Question Period on Sunday.

"We've been looking for a way in which to be active. The prime minister's been actively pursuing this. He's been in talks with Mr. (Olusegun) Obasanjo, the president of Nigeria, for the last six months.

The Liberal minority government of Prime Minister Paul Martin faces possible defeat in Parliament. Besides the federal budget plan, several votes of confidence are looming.

Should the Liberal government lose such a vote, it could fall, forcing another election.

To survive, the government requires the support of all three independent MPs. David Kilgour, who quit the Liberal caucus this spring, is one of those MPs.

Kilgour, a long-time advocate of human rights in developing countries, has said he was disappointed over what he called Canada's unwillingness to take action to help stop the killings in Darfur. He has said Canada's response would play a major role in his decision on whether he will support the government in a non-confidence vote.

However, when pressed further on whether the decision to send a small military continent to Sudan had to do with buying Kilgour's support, "I'm denying that was the purpose of trying to get David involved," Graham said.

Martin has said he recently consulted with Kilgour over Darfur because of the MP's extensive experience in Africa.

In response to the government's latest decision on Sudan, Kilgour said on Question Period: "Well, it certainly affects my feeling how I'll vote."

But he would not confirm whether he would support the Liberals.

"I'm not prepared to vote for the Liberal party. I want to see what happens, I want to see what happens between now and the time the vote is held. I'll make up my mind then," he said, citing his concern over other issues such as the "integrity" of the party.

When he quit the party, Kilgour said he was in "fundamental opposition" with several of its foreign policy stances as well its position on social issues like same-sex marriage. On Sunday, Kilgour also said he hoped Canada's commitment to Sudan had nothing to do with his support for the Grits.

"No, it's got nothing to do, I hope, with my vote. We've been trying to get (Martin) to act now for more than a year. "

News that Canada will send a small military contingent to war-torn Sudan first came on Saturday.

CTV News confirmed the government is prepared to formally announce within days that 150 troops will be sent to Sudan. On Sunday, Graham said that the numbers have not yet been confirmed as the government needs to discuss the matter in greater detail with the African Union.

Thirty-one solders had previously been committed to act as advisers to the Ethiopia-based African Union mission and the UN Standing High-Readiness Brigade in Khartoum.

The Canadian Press, who first reported the story, reported the government will likely throw in some old military equipment and add to the $20 million in humanitarian aid it has already given Sudan.

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