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The BBC's Nick Robinson
"It is an important moment for Canada"
 real 56k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 13:14 GMT
Blair wants 'best of both worlds'
Canadian and UK Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Tony Blair
Mr Chretien welcomes Mr Blair to Canada
Tony Blair is using the first leg of his visit to Canada and the US to state his belief that the UK can be both a leader in Europe and have a strong commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance.

In a speech to both houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, the Prime Minister will say he intends to have "the best of both worlds".

On his arrival in Ottawa with his wife Cherie, Mr Blair spoke of the many bonds between the British and Canadian peoples "forged in times of war and peace, in times of happiness and in times of tragedy".

On Friday he will fly on to Washington for his first summit meeting with President George W Bush.

False choice

A released text of Mr Blair's speech to the Canadian parliament describes the notion of a choice between a UK close to Europe or close to the US as a false one.

He will say: "We will give up neither relationship. We will make them both work and make them work not just for Britain but for the EU and for the US."

Mr Blair was due to say he was "a European, unshakeable in my view that Britain's future is as a leading player in Europe, a powerful force for good and a force for reform in the EU".

Separate talks with the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, will focus on defence matters and trade relations.

Mr Blair and Mr Chretien are expected to discuss the American determination to build an anti-missile defence system.

Tony Blair and guard
An honour guard was laid on to welcome the Blairs
The UK prime minister has not yet clearly committed himself to supporting that, though he has come close.

Mr and Mrs Blair will also lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, which commemorates more than 27,000 Canadian war dead buried with no known grave.

Mrs Blair will meet some of the 48,000 "war brides" - who married Canadian servicemen and emigrated during the war years.

Before leaving for Canada, Mr Blair described Mr Chretien, 67, as a leader whose opinions were respected around the world.

The Canada visit will be followed by talks with the American president in Washington and an informal gathering at the presidential retreat Camp David, which First Lady Laura Bush will also attend.

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Blair set to meet Bush
16 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Blair 'will co-operate with Star Wars'
20 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Bush to meet EU leaders
28 Nov 00 | Americas
Jean Chretien: Veteran fighter
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