Baird a lone wolf in disarmament boycott

A tough-talking John Baird said yesterday that Canada alone is boycotting the UN Conference on Disarmament to protest against North Korea chairing the hearings.

"North Korea chairing a UN agency on disarmament is absurd," the foreign affairs minister told reporters.

"It puts one of the world's worst offenders in the chair, it hurts the credibility of the United Nations and it is a blow to any meaningful efforts at disarmament," said Baird, adding the boycott would be lifted Aug. 19 with the rotation of the 65 members.

A Liberal critic said it was just another example of partisan ideology driving Canada's foreign affairs.

Baird said Canada's Conservative government would no longer "go along to get along," and added Canada will be calling for an end to the practice of routinely rotating chairs to avoid this happening again. Chairmanship is rotated three times a year.

"The regime is a major proliferator of nuclear weapons and its non-compliance with its disarmament obligations goes against the fundamental principles of this committee. North Korea's chairmanship undermines the integrity of both disarmament framework and of the United Nations and Canada simply will not support that," Baird said.

"It's one thing to have them in the tent, it's another thing having them not just at the front row of the tent but chairing the meeting in the tent," he said.

In stark contrast, Canada's permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, Marius Grinius, congratulated the North Koreans when they took over. Baird refused to answer questions on Grinius' actions.

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