MONT TREMBLANT, Que. (CP) - International policing and justice efforts must be better co-ordinated if they are to be truly effective, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.
But real co-operation doesn't require G-8 countries to bow to the undisputed leader of the global anti-terrorism effort, he said. "It is not how other countries can serve the United States - that's not the question," Ashcroft said on the opening day of a two-day meeting of Group of Eight justice and interior ministers.
"The question is how we, as mature, sovereign nations, can serve each other in a war against those who would seek to destroy the things in which we believe - namely freedom, human dignity, liberty and opportunity."
Suppression of terrorist financing, the potential union of terrorism and organized crime, cyber crime and cyber terrorism, child pornography and weapons of mass terror are among the key items on the meeting agenda.
Ashcroft, flanked by Justice Minister Martin Cauchon and Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay, said the common front against trans-national crime - including terrorism - needs flesh on its bones.
"When we get together . . . and we organize that agreement, that's when agreement becomes operational, when it becomes effective," he said.
He predicted the Tremblant talks here will lead to "intensified and organized" co-ordination by sovereign justice systems.
Details, however, were scant Monday.
Although G-8 justice ministers only began formal meetings in 1997, the group has run forums on counter-terrorism since 1978 and on international crime since 1995.
Ashcroft spoke hopefully of implementing an action plan on terrorism, although no copies or elements of such a plan were made available to the media.
Cauchon was slightly more specific when he described a half-hour bilateral meeting Monday between the U.S. attorney general and his Canadian counterparts.
"We've been talking about mutual legal assistance, extradition as well," said Cauchon.
"We've been talking about our experience on both sides of the border as regards to the tools that we have to fight terrorism."
Ashcroft was effusive in his praise: "two great friends, Canada and the United States, have united to form a common defence against a common enemy."
And rather than the U.S. imposing its will upon Canada in an effort to improve security, Ashcroft lauded the unilateral moves made by the Canadian government.
Those include opening Canadian airports to diverted U.S. flights on Sept. 11, tighter border controls and increased customs efforts.
"There have been times when my colleagues here . . . have exercised the sovereignty in Canada to the benefit of the United States in advance of our literally knowing exactly what would be done or how to do it," said Ashcroft.
The Tremblant talks are the second-last in a series of ministerial meetings leading up to the leaders' summit June 26-27 in Kananaskis, Alta.
Finance, environment, labour and energy ministers have already met, and foreign ministers meet next month at Whistler, B.C.
The G-8 is comprised of the world's seven largest industrialized economies - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States - plus Russia.
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