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Cannon and Clinton speak as Khadr weighs plea bargain

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a G8 ministerial meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon in Gatineau, Que. on March 30, 2010.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Canadian counterpart, Lawrence Cannon, spoke on Friday about the fate of Canada's Omar Khadr, the only Western detainee remaining at Guantanamo Bay.

"All I'll confirm is that today Secretary Clinton had the opportunity to talk to Foreign Minister Cannon," spokesman P.J. Crowley told the department's daily briefing. "Beyond that, I will not comment. ... You can assume I am not commenting on the topic of their discussion."

A senior Canadian government official, however, speaking on background, told The Canadian Press that Ms. Clinton called the Foreign Affairs Minister to discuss Mr. Khadr.

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The 24-year-old Canadian national is scheduled to appear before a military court on Monday to say whether he'll agree to a purported plea bargain. He's the first person in more than 60 years to face a U.S. military tribunal for crimes allegedly committed as a minor.

Mr. Cannon has spent the week reiterating the federal government's position: Mr. Khadr faces serious charges in the United States and it's up to American officials to decide how to proceed.

In Beijing on Friday, Mr. Cannon stuck to the message, making no mention of a conversation with Ms. Clinton, although a spokeswoman in the Foreign Affairs Minister's office later confirmed the call.

The discussion would mark the highest level of contact between the United States and Canada since news of a potential deal emerged.

The pact would see Mr. Khadr admit to the murder of a U.S. serviceman in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15, in exchange for an eight-year cap on his sentence. He would serve the first year of the sentence in American custody and then the rest of the term in a Canadian prison.

Canada has long resisted repatriating Mr. Khadr, despite pressure from both the Americans and federal courts. That position is thought to have caused tensions between Canada and the United States.

The Canadian official declined to provide any details of the call on Friday, pointing to a "plea agreement unfolding in a U.S. process."

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At this stage, the official added, it's "still not proper for Canada to be involved" in the talks between Mr. Khadr's lawyers and U.S. prosecutors.

"We wouldn't be involved between the prosecution and the defence," the official said. "In terms of anything with Canada, it's hypothetical at this point."

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