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Fowler criticizes foreign service cuts

OTTAWA - Former Canadian diplomat and one-time al-Qaida hostage Robert Fowler says the government needs to stop cuts to the foreign service because it is harming Canada's international interests.

Fowler is criticizing the Foreign Affairs Department plan to cut costs by closing embassies and selling property at a time when a terrorist insurgency is threatening West Africa.

The department plans to cut $170 million from its $2.6-billion budget over the next two years, including the sale of some official residences, which is projected to generate $80 million in revenue.

Four years ago, Fowler and fellow Canadian diplomat Louis Guay were kidnapped and held for 130 days by the Islamic Maghreb, the al-Qaida linked group in Mali.

Fowler told an all-party committee of MPs that he doesn't want to see Canadian infantry battalions "drawing a line" in Mali's desert fighting terrorists.

But he says Canadian special forces could be helping French special forces, while the military could contribute intelligence and logistics officers as well as helicopters and trucks.

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