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Speaker's Ruling

MPs near deal on detainee documents Add to ...

Opposition MPs say a deal on viewing Afghan detainee documents is within reach by end of day Thursday.

The government and opposition MPs are scheduled to continue their closed door negotiations in the morning and the opposition says talks are now focused on hashing out all of the details.

In response to a ruling two weeks ago by House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, the government and opposition originally were to reach an agreement by Tuesday that would let MPs view classified documents in private. The Speaker has since granted an extension until Friday at 1:30 p.m.

The opposition wants to see documents related to treatment of Afghan detainees to determine what type of warnings were received regarding allegations of torture and how the government responded.

There appears to be agreement that a small group of MPs from all three opposition parties will be allowed to view classified documents. However it has yet to be decided how the group will resolve disputes in the event the government and the opposition disagree in these closed door meetings over whether or not a document must remain secret for reasons of national security.

"The process could still founder," Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said after another round of closed-door talks between the parties. "Nothing's decided till everything's decided."

Mr. Goodale said all sides have now moved beyond "shadow boxing" and are now working out details of a possible agreement. A similar assessment was expressed by the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.

"The government is very open now in the discussion," Bloc House Leader Pierre Paquette said.

MPs representing the government side in the talks - which have included House leader Jay Hill, Whip Gordon O'Connor and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson - did not address reporters following Wednesday's meeting.

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