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Canada says leaked Afghan papers could hurt troops

Soldiers with BRAVO Company, 1st battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment leave their base to patrol outside the village of Nakhonay in Panjwai district, southern Afghanistan, June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The leak of U.S. military documents on the war in Afghanistan could endanger Canadian troops in that country, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said on Monday.

He dismissed suggestions, however, that the leaked reports show the Canadian public has been misled about the grimness of the situation facing the roughly 2,700 Canadian military personnel in Afghanistan.

Cannon refused to comment on specific information in the more than 91,000 U.S. military documents on the war released on Sunday by WikiLeaks, an organization promoting the leaking of information to fight corporate and government corruption. The documents include reports that Pakistan has allowed representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban.

“Our government is concerned, obviously, that operational leaks could endanger the lives of our men and women in Afghanistan,” Cannon told reporters in Ottawa.

The documents say that the Taliban has access to heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, and that a Canadian soldier was among those killed when one was apparently used to shoot down a helicopter.

The Taliban’s access to the weapons had not been disclosed previously.

“We have certainly not misled the Canadian public in any way, shape or form,” Cannon said, calling the government’s handling of information on Afghanistan “extremely transparent”.

Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan, which has become increasingly unpopular at home, is scheduled to end next year. Since the mission began in 2002, 150 Canadian troops have died in Afghanistan.

Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Peter Galloway