Washington, USA - Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday that his country would opt out of the contentious U.S. missile defense program, a move that is expected to please constituents at home but could further strain relations with Washington after Canada's opposition to the Iraq war.

Weeks after President Bush pressed Martin for a public endorsement of the planned ballistic missile system in December, Canadian officials notified their U.S. counterparts this week during a NATO summit in Brussels that Canada would not be signing on. But Martin tried to soften the impact with an $11-billion commitment to shore up his...

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