US Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson
Credits: JIM WELLS/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - The US ambassador to Canada has denied Washington put the heat on the Conservative government to move quickly on Omar Khadr's return to home soil.
But David Jacobson told reporters Monday that the US government was anxious to get Khadr off its hands and had an understanding with the Conservative government that it would repatriate the former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
"I'm not sure we'd use the word 'pressure,'" he said following an event at Carleton University.
"(US President Barack Obama) has made it very clear he wants to close Guantanamo. This is a step in that direction and we explained the Canadians' desire (to Washington), but you don't pressure, that's not how it works."
Jacobson also underscored that any tensions that may have existed between the US and Canadian governments over Khadr weren't enough to affect the "strong" relationship between the two countries.
"It was strong the day before they took him back, it was strong the day after and it does not impact on that," he said.
Khadr was repatriated Saturday morning. A US government aircraft flew him to the Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ont., and from there he was taken to Millhaven maximum security penitentiary near Kingston, ON.
New Democrat MPs targeted the Conservative government in question period Monday for its handling of the Khadr case, accusing the Tories of straining the relationship with the Americans.
On Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Washington had been putting pressure on the Tory government to return Khadr to Canadian soil.
Khadr, 26, is a Toronto-born Canadian citizen, and until his return was the last western detainee being held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He struck a plea deal in 2010 that saw him sentenced to eight years in prison for five war crimes, including killing U.S. special forces medic Christopher Speer 10 years ago in an Afghan firefight. He was captured in 2002 when he was 15 years old and sent to Guantanamo Bay.
During the plea deal negotiations, a diplomatic note between Canada and the US came to came to light indicating the Canadian government was "inclined to favourably consider" Khadr's transfer from Guantanamo Bay after he'd served a year of his eight-year sentence.