Canadian PM Harper makes speech at UN in New York

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Canadian PM Stephen Harper made a speech at the UN General Assembly today in New York. He talked about Canada's role in Afghanistan.

Canada has 2,300 soldiers in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, scene of a series of major clashes with the Taliban. Twenty Canadians have died in Afghanistan in the last three months alone, 36 soldiers and a diplomat have died since 2002.

"Let us be realistic. The challenges facing Afghanistan are enormous. There will be no quick fixes. Moreover, success cannot be assured by military means alone," Harper told the U.N. "Difficulties don't daunt us. But lack of common purpose and will in this body would. ... If we fail the Afghan people, we will be failing ourselves."

Harper spoke to the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday night, talking about recent opinion polls that show most Canadians are opposed to the mission. "I don't really accept that Canadians are opposed to the mission. I think what Canadians regret, what hurts Canadians a lot, is seeing their brave men and women in uniform lose their lives," he said.

Harper also talked about other challenges facing the UN, including conflicts affecting Haiti, Darfur and Lebanon, and suggested that the time for getting tough with Iran over its nuclear ambitions is getting close.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to address the Canadian Parliament on Friday and also making a three day visit to Canada which started today.