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McGuinty presses Harper to mend UAE rift Add to ...

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to resolve the deepening dispute between the federal government and the United Arab Emirates.

Ottawa's falling out with the UAE could jeopardize Canada's ability to establish a good productive working relationship and trade ties with the Mideast business region, Mr. McGuinty told reporters at Queen's Park on Wednesday.

"The UAE is kind of like the financial nerve centre for the Middle East," he said. "We need to have a good trading relationship. We need to be on friendly terms with that part of the world."

Mr. McGuinty said he cannot point to any business dealings that are at risk between Canada and the UAE as a result of the dispute. Rather, he said, what's at stake is Canada's future dealings with the region.

"It's not about what we've lost. It's about what we're trying to get."

The Premier waded into the controversy one day after Sandra Pupatello, Ontario's Economic Development and Trade Minister, began a four-day visit to the UAE.

Ms. Pupatello said on Tuesday that she is anxious to make it clear to officials in the Arab country that her government is completely separate from Ottawa. She also said she hopes the dispute does not hurt Ontario companies' chances of signing deals or attracting investors.

Mr. McGuinty said he shares Ms. Pupatello's concerns.

"We're seen in a different light, and a light we would prefer not to be seen in, in the UAE at present," he said.

What began as a dispute over additional landing rights at Toronto's Pearson airport for UAE airlines has resulted in Canada's loss of a key military Mideast base and a breakdown in relations between Ottawa and a one-time ally.

"I'm convinced that there is still a strong residue of goodwill on both sides," Mr. McGuinty said in urging Mr. Harper to try to "overcome" this.

"I don't think this needs to get hot," he said. "I think there's a lot of common ground that we can and should be building."

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