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This article was published 27/5/2011 (3526 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DEAUVILLE, France -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised a G8 resolution on the Middle East peace process Friday that, according to a media report, was watered down at his request to avoid a reference that has infuriated Israel.
The stir at the summit over Harper's role arose as the G8 leaders emerged with a $40-billion US plan to help Egypt and Tunisia transform from dictatorships to democracies.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said $20 billion would come from multilateral institutions, such as the African Development Bank, $10 billion from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, and $10 billion in direct bilateral aid from G8 countries -- including $1 billion from France.
But Canada refused to commit to any country-to-country aid, saying it has given sufficient funding since 2009 to multilateral institutions tasked to help the region.
Reuters cited diplomatic sources saying that Harper insisted there be no reference to Israel's borders before 1967, when it seized the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt, respectively, during the Six Day War.
U.S. President Barack Obama's recent call for negotiations with the Palestinians to be based on those prewar lines has infuriated Israel, even though the U.S. position is that negotiations will then include "land swaps."
"The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week," a European diplomat told the news agency.
Harper -- seen internationally as one of Israel's most fervent supporters -- neither confirmed nor denied the report when asked twice about it by Canadian reporters.
"We are pleased that the statement that came out of the G8 was a balanced statement," Harper said.
The resolution expressed "strong support" for Obama's vision set out in the speech, and called for a new round of negotiations.
"We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations more important, not less," the G8 said.
Harper said he has no problem with Obama's speech, saying it had to be considered in its "entirety." He noted that Obama supported the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state and a Jewish state, the latter of which would rule out the longstanding Palestinian demand that refugees and their families living outside Israel have the right to return.
Sarkozy, meanwhile, told reporters he strongly supported Obama's "courageous" focus on the 1967 borders.
The Middle East peace issue was part of a larger effort by the G8 countries -- Canada, the U.S., Russia, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy -- to deal with the fallout from the Arab Spring.
Tunisian Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed said Friday he wasn't surprised Canada didn't put any new money on the table, blaming the problem on the lack of a historic bilateral relationship.
"Since it is not a historical partner, we did not really expect much in terms of contributions at this stage from Canada, but it is something we have to work on," Ayed said.
The G8 communique called on Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to abandon power, and Harper said the NATO-led campaign against his forces -- which includes Canadian warplanes -- is making progress.
He said he wants to extend Canada's mission there past June and will consult Parliament about that plan.
"The rebels have sustained their gains in the east of the country and I think there continues to be evidence that the power of the Gadhafi regime continues to be degraded."
Harper pointed out that the G8 reaffirmed its commitment to the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health launched at the 2010 summit in Canada.
Following his trip to France, Harper is travelling to Greece for two days to meet with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and visit the site of a Second World War Nazi atrocity.
-- Postmedia News