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December 3, 2000
Canada Minister Accused Of 'Pandering to Terrorists'
A P Kamath
Canada's conservative newspaper National Post and several hostage negotiators slammed Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy for his statement made midweek that the safety of the hostages came first and it might be possible to deal with hijackers of Indian Airlines first and bring them to justice later.
Even The Winnipeg Free Press, while noting that one of the hostages, Shirley Macklin, was a Winnipeg native, accused Axworthy of pandering to hijackers.
Though Axworthy tried to backtrack, saying that Canada had condemned the hijacking and it does not believe in giving in to terrorists, critics said that his first statement could prompt hijackers and terrorists think that Canadians were easy targets. And they could be encouraged by the notion that Ottawa would give in to their demands easily.
Condemning Axworthy's comments, National Press said his thinking was "as clear as mud".
The Winnipeg Free Press said last Thursday that the decision India would ultimately take could set a trend how world would deal with resurgent terrorism in the new millennium.
Editorial commentator Tom Oleson said that by adopting a "wrong approach" Axworthy had "held out hope to the hijackers by publicly pandering to terrorism".
Oleson suggested India and other countries should emulate the example of Israel which successfully fought the "epidemic" of terrorism in the 1970s by refusing to give in to the terrorists.
Axworthy's policy seems "to be to cave in to terrorism wherever it appears and affects Canadians."
Even the Macklin family was upset with Axworthy.
They said they were cheered by his earlier comments, and supported his position that the Indian government should be more flexible.
But his subsequent comment on a Canadian television show that Canada does not believe in negotiating with terrorists confused the family, several members of the family said.
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