By Tejinder Singh<


Washington, D.C.

The visiting Canadian leader and the American president on Wednesday remained noncommittal on a controversial oil pipeline linking the two countries but signed a border deal.

Addressing a joint press conference at the White House, with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "With respect to the politics, look, this is a big project with big consequences."

Asking for a assessment for environmental impact, Obama said, "We've seen Democrats and Republicans express concerns about it. And it is my job as president of the United States to make sure that a process is followed that examines all the options."

Harper, on the other hand refused to be drawn into any controversy saying, "You can appreciate that I would not comment on the domestic politics of this issue or any other issue here in the United States."

Harper added that Obama had an "open mind" on the project, but wanted a full assessment carried out. "He's indicated to me, as he's indicated to you today, that he is following a proper (process) to eventually take that decision here in the United States, and that he has an open mind in regards to what the final decision may or may not be," Canadian leader said about the 1,600-mile pipeline that would run from Canada to the Texas coast.

"My position, the position of the government of Canada on this issue, is very well known," said Harper, hinting at his backing for the Keystone XL plan, which is projected to create jobs in the U.S. and in Canada and to enable oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to reach the world market.

The two leaders announced signing of a trade deal and perimeter security agreement, which would allow easier access to ports and increase harmonization of security checks and procedures at land borders.

"Together, they represent the most significant steps forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement," Harper said.


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World - Obama, Harper Stay Apart on Pipeline Issue, Ink Other Agreements | Global Viewpoint