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Baird first foreign minister to meet with Kerry

WASHINGTON - John Baird will be the first foreign minister to sit down with America's newest secretary of state on Friday when he meets with John Kerry at the State Department to discuss an array of bilateral and international issues.

Baird's visit to the U.S. capital, confirmed by government officials, comes just five days after the men had a 15-minute phone call on Sunday. Kerry was officially sworn in as secretary of state on Wednesday after serving five terms in the U.S. Senate.

During that conversation, Baird told reporters in Ottawa on Monday, Kerry expressed no concerns about allegations that Canadians were involved in last month's terrorist attack on a gas plant in Algeria.

Since then, however, it's emerged that a man who held both Canadian and Lebanese citizenship was involved in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last July. Baird hasn't been able to provide details about his activities in Canada.

TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline will undoubtedly be a key topic of conversation between the two men. Baird said he had raised Keystone during his phone conversation with Kerry, making the case for its approval.

The State Department will make the ultimate decision on Keystone because it crosses an international border. The $7 billion project would carry Alberta oilsands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Kerry told him that the State Department's analysis of the pipeline would be completed soon, Baird said.

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