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Questions about Ottawa's handling of the Jetsgo fiasco followed Transport Minister Jean Lapierre to Israel, where the minister had to declare again on Tuesday that he had no foreknowledge of the discount airline's imminent collapse.

"I see no reason to resign," Mr. Lapierre said when questioned by Canadian reporters during a photo opportunity at the beginning of a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Shetrit.

There have been calls in Canada, such as from the Consumers' Association of Canada, for him to step down for failing to intervene when Jetsgo ceased operations abruptly last week, stranding thousands of passengers across Canada and the United States.

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Mr. Lapierre appeared uncomfortable at being grilled publicly in front of his Israeli host on the matter, but Mr. Shetrit came to his rescue.

"Israeli ministers are called upon daily to resign - but we don't. This is not new here," he said, smiling broadly as aides declared time was up and started ushering the journalists out of the room.

As he did back in Ottawa, Mr. Lapierre said Jetsgo's directors had not given him advance warning of their intention to stop operations. "You just don't expect that. I wasn't told of their impending bankruptcy," he said.

Mr. Lapierre also dismissed claims that the writing had been on the wall in earlier, unsuccessful attempts to lower the carrier's costs, and that by failing to warn the public he was indirectly responsible for the hardships caused to stranded travellers.

The questions came as Mr. Lapierre was beginning a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. He was Canada's representative as top officials from 30 countries arrived to attend the inauguration of a new Holocaust history museum in Jerusalem Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, citizens group Democracy Watch called Tuesday for Ottawa to create an Air Passengers Organization "to balance the marketplace by giving airline passengers a strong voice in airline complaint and government policy-making processes."

"The federal government has made many decisions in the past several years about airline issues without any significant input from passengers," said Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch, in a statement. "The best thing the government can do for passengers is to require airlines to facilitate the creation of an air passengers group that will have the broad base and resources needed to hold the airlines accountable for poor service and to ensure that passengers have a strong voice in future airline policy-making."

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Under the proposal, the organization would be modelled after U.S. groups that are independent and deomocratically structured. People would be asked to participate in the groups through flyers and would pay a nominal annual membership fee.

The group would rally for consumers' interests in the airline industry.

Mr. Lapierre's Transport Ministry sent out information for former Jetsgo passengers Tuesday, saying that "the overwhelming majority of Jetsgo's ticket-holders are protected from lost funds through a combination of provincial and federal regulations and private insurance coverage, such as that provided by credit card companies."

The Ministry encouraged customers to contact their credit card companies for refunds, saying between 80 and 90 per cent of ticket holders booked their flights on-line with credit cards and are eligible to receive refunds through American Express, MasterCard and VISA.

Between 80 and 90 per cent of Jetsgo ticket-holders and passengers booked their flights on-line with credit cards and are eligible to receive refunds.

All three major credit card companies in Canada--American Express, MasterCard and VISA--have said they will offer refunds to their clients.

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For customers who were travelling via charter companies, the agency provided the telephone number for the Canadian Transportation Agency at 1-888-222-2592 for more information. Transport Canada say customers flying on international charter services originating in Canada should be issued a refund in the case of airline problems, based on financial guarantees that are issued to the charter companies by Canadian financial institutions to protect consumers.

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