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Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon leaves a news conference at United Nations headquarters in New York on Oct. 12, 2010.

Richard Drew/The Associated Press

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada had the support of the United States in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

But Mr. Cannon admitted no one can say for sure whether Washington ultimately voted for Canada because the UN vote was a secret ballot.

Mr. Cannon's remarks will certainly fuel fires of discontent in Canada after the country's unprecedented loss to economically troubled Portugal in a bid for a temporary seat on the UN's most powerful body.

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The minister reiterated what several top government officials have disclosed already this week - that Canada had 135 written assurances of support and 15 verbal ones. "The United States was among that group," Mr. Cannon said from Brussels, where he was meeting his NATO counterparts.

Mr. Cannon made that remark only in French, during a short teleconference with journalists in which he took only three questions. He immediately backtracked from the statement when asked a follow-up question.

"Let me clarify that: I don't want to indicate that we did or did not get support from the United States. I want to make that clear," the minister said.

"I don't want to go into who supported … during the course of that vote. I'll leave it to the individual countries to indicate their position, vis-à-vis that given that it is a secret vote."

Mr. Cannon would not comment on the claims from a former American UN diplomat, writing on the Fox News website, that the United States did not actively support Canada's bid for a seat on the council.

Richard Grenell, a former UN spokesman for Washington, wrote that American diplomats were instructed "to not get involved" in Canada's campaign for a temporary, two-year seat on the powerful council.

As his sources, Mr. Grenell cited State Department insiders; he served four U.S. ambassadors to the UN during the Bush administration.

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"In fact, U.S. State Department insiders say that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn't campaign for Canada's election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weeks leading up to the heated contest," Mr. Grenell wrote on the Fox website.

"Some conservatives in Canada believe that the Obama team worked with Canadian liberals to leave Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative government hanging without vocal U.S. support. In the past, American ambassadors around the globe were instructed by Washington and led by the U.S. Mission to the UN to work aggressively behind the scenes rallying capitals around the world to support certain countries in crucial Security Council elections."

Mr. Cannon's remark came a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticized the secretive nature of the UN voting.

Canada lost out to Portugal and Germany in the three-way race for two temporary seats, the first such Canadian failure at the UN since it was founded after the Second World War.

Mr. Grenell also wrote that Ms. Rice's inaction seemed like a "politically co-ordinated" effort with Canada's own Liberal opposition.

The U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley declined comment on Mr. Grenell's claims during a briefing this week.

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