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Ottawa to try to block export of freshwater

The Great Lakes hold the largest supply of freshwater in the world. Yet a Canadian firm's plan to export a tiny fraction of that water to Asia is causing alarm on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.

Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy entered the controversy this week, saying Canada would try to block the proposed sale of water from Lake Superior.

The furor focuses on a permit issued by the Ontario Environment Ministry authorizing a company in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to pump up to 158-million gallons of water a year from Lake Superior into cargo ships for export to drought-stricken Asian countries.

The five-year permit took effect last week, although the company, Nova Group, has yet to line up any buyers.

Environmentalists and politicians on both sides of the border worry that Nova Group's plan, if realized, would undermine U.S.-Canada treaties and encourage other companies to undertake larger-scale water exports.

Proposal would loosen

extradition law

OTTAWA _ The government introduced legislation Tuesday that would make it easier to extradite suspects sought by other countries for offenses ranging from war crimes to cyber fraud.

Canada's rigid extradition laws have not been revamped for 100 years, drawing complaints from other countries. The overhaul would bring the laws more in step with other industrialized nations.

Among other things, the new legislation would allow war crimes suspects to stand trial at international tribunals for Rwanda and Bosnia.

Canada has supported international bodies such as the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, but under the old laws could not send fugitives to them.

The legislation also would make it simpler to deal with extradition for new kinds of crime, such as Internet crime and telemarketing fraud.

Another reform would ease the rules for evidence that must be presented by a country seeking extradition. Canada's approach has frustrated many countries, including the United States.

Thousands flee

prairie wildfires

CALGARY, Alberta _ Thousands of people evacuated their homes Tuesday to escape wildfires sweeping Canada's tinderbox-dry western prairies.

The forests of northern Alberta took the brunt of the destruction as 35 fires burned, 20 of them out of control.

So far, no one had been hurt and there has been little damage to property, despite blazes that raged across 143 square miles.

All 2,500 residents of Swan Hills, Alberta, were ordered to flee their homes overnight as the largest fire came within 7 miles of the town limits.

Early Tuesday, the wind direction shifted away from the town, 110 miles north of the Alberta capital of Edmonton, but meteorologists warned it could blow toward it again later in the day, said Constable Shaunda Simpson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Swan Hills.

Thick, gray smoke obscured visibility and made breathing uncomfortable as far south as Calgary, 295 miles from Swan Hills.

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