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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 21:00 GMT
'Moron Bush' aide resigns
George W Bush's silhouette
Washington brushed off the remark
A top aide to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien resigned on Tuesday after nearly a week of political tension over a remark she reportedly made about the president of the United States being a "moron".

Francoise Ducros tendered her resignation in a letter to the prime minister saying her position had become untenable.


That is damage that will be hard to undo

Jason Kenney
Canadian opposition politician
Mr Chretien, whose relations with George W Bush already appeared strained before the current controversy, had refused to accept his aide's initial offer to resign on the grounds that the remark was made in a private conversation with a reporter.

"I'm very sorry. She was very good, a very competent person and served me and served the government extremely well and I wish her good luck," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Francoise Ducros
Ducros made her reported remark in the context of Iraq
Ms Ducros, the prime minister's director of communications since mid-1999, is due to return to a post she held earlier in the public service, a government statement said in Ottawa.

"It is very apparent to me that the controversy will make it impossible for me to do my job," she said in her letter.

"I would therefore like to leave my position as immediately."

Earlier she apologised for her remark, adding: "If I made comments in the context of what I understood to be a private conversation, I regret that they have attracted so much media attention."

'Damage'

The row had erupted after the Canadian opposition named Ms Ducros as the Canadian official who had referred to President Bush as a "moron" at the Nato's summit in Prague last Wednesday. She had reportedly been commenting on his attempts to direct Nato's attention to the Iraq crisis.

Jim Munson
Ms Ducros has been replaced by Jim Munson as director of communications
Prime Minister Chretien publicly disowned the remark shortly afterwards, saying Mr Bush was "a friend... and not a moron at all".

But opposition politicians such as Jason Kenney of the Canadian Alliance party have insisted the row has damaged ties with Washington.

"The delay [in Ms Ducros's] resignation has fixed in the minds of people in Washington that this is an attitude widespread in the Chretien administration," he told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

"That is damage that will be hard to undo."

While the only official reaction from the US has been to brush the incident away as insignificant, ties between the two North American states are strained:

  • Canada recently issued a travel warning to people from several Middle Eastern countries saying they should consider carefully whether to travel to the US because of increased incidents of people of Arabic descent being stopped at the border.
  • The US Ambassador to Canada, Paul Celluci, has spent most of this year urging Canada to boost military spending and make a bigger contribution to Nato and the US-led war on terrorism.
  • The two states are engaged in a trade dispute over the export of Canadian softwood lumber exports and the US is also preparing to probe Canadian wheat exports.

Correspondents note that Mr Chretien, a close friend of former US President Bill Clinton, is one of the few world leaders not to have been invited by President Bush for an informal visit to his private ranch in Texas.

See also:

13 Sep 02 | Americas
22 Aug 02 | Americas
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