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Canada must sink differences with UAE: official

By Staff

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must "do what he can" to resolve Ottawa's rocky relationship with the UAE, a senior Canadian politician said on Wednesday.

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty described the UAE as the "financial nerve centre" of the Middle East, adding that Canada needs to be on friendly terms with the region.

The Canadian Press newswire quoted McGuinty as saying: "I'm just asking the prime minister to do what he could to help us overcome [the spat over airline landing rights]."

The premier was backing up one of his senior cabinet ministers, who sharply criticized Harper's handling of the dispute on Tuesday.

Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello, who's in Dubai for a trade mission, said the spat could cost Ontario businesses billions of dollars in future contracts.

She also accused Harper of behaving like a protectionist — not the free trader he says he is — by denying two UAE airlines additional landing rights in Canada to protect Air Canada.

McGuinty wouldn't say whether he had any objections to granting those extra landing rights at Toronto's Pearson airport. "I don't know enough about that international issue to weigh in on it thoughtfully at this point in time," he said. "All I know is that it is an issue, and I'm also convinced that we can find a way to resolve it."