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shuttle diplomacy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to reporters in Thunder Bay on Sept. 17, 2010.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

In a big week for Canadian diplomacy, Stephen Harper and three of his cabinet ministers will jet in and out of the United Nations - twice, so they don't miss Wednesday's vote on killing the long-gun registry.

A double-barrelled event at the United Nations this week will offer the Prime Minister a golden chance to campaign for a Canadian seat on the UN Security Council that's up for grabs in an Oct. 12 vote.

But between speeches on Tuesday and Thursday, he'll miss one day of the international glad-handing and arm-twisting of world leaders that takes place in New York during UN week. Mr. Harper and his colleagues - Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, junior foreign minister Peter Kent, and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda - will all return to Ottawa on Wednesday for the gun-registry vote in the Commons.

It now appears the Conservatives will lose the registry vote because enough New Democrats will join forces with the Liberals and Bloc Québécois to defeat the Tory bill. But the outcome still depends on how many MPs on each side are in the Commons to be counted.

Mr. Harper clearly wants to put forward the image of a Prime Minister in his seat, along with all of his Conservative MPs, voting in unison against the registry.

The Prime Minister gives a speech to the UN Millennium Development Goals summit on Tuesday evening, which will allow him to showcase the maternal-health initiative he pushed at the June G8 summit in Muskoka, as well as Canada's pledge to increase spending by $1.1-billion over five years to reduce deaths of mothers and young children. And he's likely to detail some of the undisclosed elements of that package - though officials who briefed the press today refused to comment on that.

After flying back Tuesday night for Wednesday's vote, Mr. Harper will return with his ministers Thursday to address the opening of the UN General Assembly, where world leaders traditionally make key foreign policy speeches, to trumpet the Canadian record in a bid to bolster his campaign for the Security Council seat. The Prime Minister - who has addressed the opening of the General Assembly only once before during his four-year tenure - will promote Canada's earthquake relief mission in Haiti, the G8 maternal-health initiative, its mission in Afghanistan, and its role in hosting the G20 to promote its image as a global leader, spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

Speaking in Thunder Bay on Friday, meanwhile, Mr. Harper declared that the gun registry "will someday be abolished" - regardless of the result of next week's vote in the House of Commons.