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French missile tests in the North Atlantic - the world's busiest oceanic airspace - have caused friction between Canada and France, with Ottawa appealing to Paris to rethink the launches on the grounds they're a safety risk for planes and costly for air carriers.

Transport Canada briefing notes obtained under access to information law show that Ottawa has complained to the French twice in the past 16 months, raising objections to the tests and, in the first instance, even asking Paris to cancel them.

In August of 2006 - prior to a November of 2006 missile test - the Department of Foreign Affairs asked Paris to reconsider it.

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"[Foreign Affairs]sent an interim response to the French embassy in Ottawa outlining Canada's strong concerns over the French plans and asking France to reconsider its intention to proceed with the test," said an Oct. 2, 2006, Transport Canada briefing note labelled "Secret."

The French test-fired their M51 ballistic missile Nov. 9, 2006, and Canadian air navigation authorities restricted flights from taking place within 300 nautical miles of potential danger zones during the test to guard against the possibility of "falling rocket debris."

The M51 can carry thermonuclear warheads and has a range of up to 9,600 kilometres, but carried no nuclear weapon during the tests.

It landed in Atlantic waters more than 960 kilometres east of Newfoundland in a test that Transport Canada described as "without incident."

Once again, in the weeks before a second missile test in June of 2007 by France in the North Atlantic, Ottawa conveyed its displeasure with Paris's plans.

"The government of Canada expressed strong concerns over France's proposed missile test, on the grounds of public safety, potentially high costs to airlines and the general additional uncertainty this imposes on air traffic," said a June 11, 2007, Transport briefing note labelled "Protected."

During the second test, Nav Canada - the air navigation agency - restricted flights from taking place within 180 nautical miles of potential North Atlantic danger zones.

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This time, on June 21, 2007, the missile came down in U.S.-controlled airspace, but very close to Canadian-controlled airspace, officials say.

The French embassy in Ottawa declined to discuss Canada-France communication over the missile tests, saying the subject was "very secret" because it concerned defence.

The Transport Canada briefing notes were obtained under access to information law by Ken Rubin.

Although about 1,000 flights a day cross North Atlantic airspace, NavCan said the two missile tests in question were co-ordinated to take place at quieter times, such as late night or early morning.

"That meant only about 20 or so international flights were affected, in that they were forced to take longer routings than [normal]to avoid the exclusion area," NavCan spokesman John Morris said.

Canada has shared responsibility for managing the North Atlantic oceanic airspace and runs its air traffic control centre for this area from Gander, Nfld.

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