Stephen Harper: U.S. to mind its own business over Arctic sovereignty

Canada's next prime minister Stephen Harper used his first news conference Thursday to tell the United States to mind its own business when it comes to territorial rights in the &to=' target=_blank>Arctic North.

Testing any notion that Harper, whose Conservative Party won general elections on Monday, would kowtow to the &to=' target=_blank>Bush administration, Harper said he would stand by a campaign pledge to increase Canada's military presence in the Arctic and put three military icebreakers in the frigid waters of the Northwest Passage.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins criticized the plans, claiming the Arctic passage as "neutral waters."

"There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist," Wilkins said during a panel discussion at the University of Western Ontario on Wednesday, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters. Most other countries do not recognize their claim."

Those words did not sit well with Harper, who also announced Thursday that he and his Cabinet would be sworn in on Feb. 6 to form the new government.

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