Defence Department confirms Canadian personnel active in war on Iraq
 CP Wire
 Thu 27 Mar 2003
 Section: National general news
 Byline: BY DENNIS BUECKERT

 OTTAWA (CP) _ Defence Department officials acknowledged Wednesday that
 Canadians are aboard American AWACS radar planes helping in the war on
 Iraq.

 It's the first time the government has conceded that Canadians on exchange
 assignments with the U.S. military are involved in the conflict, and the
 revelation prompted calls from the NDP and peace groups to withdraw them.

 Prime Minister Jean Chretien declared last week that Canada would not join
 the war against Iraq without United Nations backing. The government later
 said personnel on exchange programs would not be involved in combat
 operations.

 About 31 Canadians are on exchange assignments with U.S. and British
 forces.

 ``Yes indeed, we do have personnel that are performing roles with U.S.
 units
 that are involved in the war on Iraq right now,'' Lieut. Hollie Ryan said
 Wednesday.

 Ryan said she could not give details, citing security. Another Defence
 official confirmed that the Canadian participation includes AWACS work.

 AWACS planes are used for surveillance, command and control in air
 operations.

 The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that six members of the Canadian
 armed
 forces are on the ground in a logistical or support position for combat
 troops involved in heavy fighting.

 Chretien confirmed the presence of Canadians on the AWACS on Wednesday,
 but
 not that they are involved in the war on Iraq.

 ``The people who are involved in flying in AWACS planes are covering many
 countries in their surveillance not only one country,'' he told the House
 of
 Commons.

 ``They are doing a job today that they are doing since many, many
 months.''

 NDP Leader Jack Layton said Canada is involved in the war on Iraq despite
 claims to the contrary, and called for the Canadians to be withdrawn.

 Layton also charged that Canada is supplying information to the U.S. from
 Aurora surveillance planes.

 ``We think there's a very strong likelihood that that information is used
 to
 assist in the bombing, that Canadians are complicit as a result, and our
 government is complicit.''

 Defence Minister John McCallum declined to comment on reports that
 Canadians
 are also involved in ground combat in Iraq.

 Steven Staples of the Ottawa-based Polaris Institute said there is a
 contradiction between Canada's foreign policy and the facts on the ground.

 ``Today, Canadian ships and aircraft are clearly playing a war role
 despite
 Canada's policy,'' he told a news conference.

 ``Our three frigates have been permitted to escort U.S. warships up the
 Persian Gulf to Kuwait, our two surveillance planes are relaying
 information
 to the U.S. Fifth fleet and a handful of exchange soldiers are serving
 with
 the U.S. and U.K. forces.

 ``Policy incoherence would be an understatement.''

 Peace activists called on Chretien to take an active stance against the
 war
 on Iraq.

 ``We believe he has a mandate from the Canadian public and a
 responsibility
 under international law to make a strong statement condemning the war as
 illegal,'' said Vallie Stearns of Committee for Peace in Iraq.


 Length: 487 words

 The following story ran in the Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall)

 NDP says Canadian military involved in Iraq war
 CanWest News Service
 Wed 26 Mar 2003
 Byline: Rick Mofina
 Source: CanWest News Service

 OTTAWA - The Canadian Armed Forces are involved in the war in Iraq despite
 the government's position that Canada would not participate in the
 conflict,
 NDP Leader Jack Layton and peace groups charged Wednesday.

 "Canada has air personnel apparently directing AWACS operations, resulting
 in bombing Iraq," Layton said, adding, "Canadian ships are escorting
 warships directly into the war zone."

 Layton could not provide proof Canadian military forces were directly
 participating in the war, but pointed to a recent report by the Ottawa
 Citizen.

 The paper said Canada has 31 military personnel assigned to British and
 American units involved in the war on Iraq.

 At least one of the Canadians is with the British 7th Armored Brigade, a
 unit now taking part in heavy fighting near Basra. It is not known if he
 is
 in Basra or with British officers in Kuwait or Qatar, the paper reported.

 Other Canadians are on board AWACS aircraft, the key command and control
 planes used to monitor and direct airplanes in the air war. Some are also
 with British and American engineering and logistical units, the Citizen
 reported.

 "We know exactly what units each of our 31 people are in, but we're not
 commenting," Defence Minister John McCallum told reporters after
 Wednesday's
 Liberal caucus meeting.

 McCallum refused to elaborate, but indicated that the Canadian naval
 forces
 in the region - three ships with nearly 700 personnel in all - are part of
 Operation Apollo, a multinational task force of some 20 vessels patrolling
 the Persian Gulf to thwart terrorists.

 "It demonstrates our commitment to the war on terrorism," McCallum said.

 But having Canadian forces in the region during the war flies in the face
 of
 Canada's decision not to support the war, peace groups charged.

 "Canadian ships and aircraft in the region are clearly playing a war
 role,"
 said Steven Staples of the Polaris Institute.

 "While the government's decision to not join the war is very significant
 politically, it makes little difference militarily." Staples said.

 The Committee for Peace in Iraq, a coalition of groups behind large
 anti-war
 rallies in Canada, urged Prime Minister Jean Chretien to condemn the war
 as
 an "illegal act," said Vallie Stearns, a spokesperson for the group.

 "This condemnation should be backed by action, including the immediate
 recall of Canadian warships and military personnel from the region,"
 Stearns
 said.