OTTAWAŚCanada has warned the United States that a repeat of the Maher Arar affair will seriously undermine relations between the two countries, but has essentially given up on getting answers from the Americans in the case.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday he delivered a stern message to U.S. President George W. Bush when he sought clarification in early October about whether the Americans had any information other than faulty Canadian intelligence on Arar.

But Harper, who had publicly demanded the Americans "come clean," conceded it's unlikely Ottawa will ever get to the bottom of what happened to Arar.

"I think frankly that we've gotten the response, the best response we could get, which is obviously an acknowledgement of the facts and a commitment to work in the future to avoid such an incident. That's all we can expect and I think the proof will be in the pudding.

"Obviously, and I've said this very clearly to President Bush and others, that if there were any reoccurrence of the kind of incidents that we saw (with) Maher Arar, this would seriously damage Canada's ability to engage in that kind of security co-operation with the United States and I think the United States and ourselves understand that co-operating on continental security is absolutely in our vital interest, so the rules in the future must be respected.

"But obviously at the same time, we have an obligation to deal with the problems that happened on our own side of the border in that particular incident."

Arar was detained on Sept. 26, 2002, during a stopover at New York's JFK airport as he was returning home after a vacation. He was held for two weeks, then flown to Jordan and driven across the border to Syria where he was tortured, questioned and held for a year without charges.

A commission of inquiry led by Justice Dennis O'Connor concluded that faulty information the RCMP passed to the United States very likely led to the Ottawa engineer's year-long ordeal.

The Conservative government says it is addressing the recommendations O'Connor made in his September report.

But Arar and his lawyers disagree, and are calling for more than just the resignation of RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, who quit on Wednesday.

Lawyer Julian Falconer accused the Conservative government of not taking "active leadership" since the O'Connor report.

"The problem with the present situation is that our current government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has played an observer role (in terms of) accountability rather than taking the lead."

He said Zaccardelli's resignation was not "demanded" by the government in response to the O'Connor findings.

"He lost his job because he couldn't keep his stories straight. This is not accountability. This is not active leadership. This shouldn't and can't happen to another family but it's not entirely clear at the present time our government, our current government has learned the lesson."

Zaccardelli quit after telling starkly different stories about what and when he and senior officers at the RCMP knew about Canadian errors that may have led to Arar's plight.

On Sept. 28, Zaccardelli told a Commons committee that he learned at the outset of Arar's detention in Syrian that the RCMP had made errors on the file, falsely labelling Arar an "Islamic extremist." That information was then transmitted to U.S. officials.

Then, on Tuesday, appearing before the same Commons committee under oath, Zaccardelli changed his story and said neither he nor senior RCMP officers knew investigators had wrongly labelled Arar and his wife "Islamic terrorists" tied to Al Qaeda until this fall when they read O'Connor's report.

In a national teleconference call yesterday, Arar gave credit to Zaccardelli for apologizing to him. But Arar said accountability for his and his family's ordeal "goes far beyond the resignation of one person." He said he thought individual officers should be disciplined for shoddy work in his case.

In 2004, Arar filed a lawsuit against federal agencies and police seeking $400 million, an amount that has been lowered to $37 million.

On Tuesday, O'Connor will release the second part of his inquiry report and it is expected to recommend the creation of an independent watchdog group to oversee national security investigations by the RCMP and other federal departments.

There is already a separate agency that oversees the national security operations of the spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Arar, who also made a videotaped statement yesterday, said the investigation into media leaks about him should be taken away from the RCMP and handed over to an independent and impartial agency or person.

Arar said those leaks, which began while he was detained in Syria and continued after he returned to Canada, had a "devastating impact on my psychological, mental and financial well-being."

Journalists should volunteer information about their sources to whoever handles the investigation, he said, because "governments and police agencies cannot be left to investigate themselves."

With files from Bruce Campion-Smith and Michelle Shephard

Oh but theyre our closest ally and friend! Oh our relationship is SOOOOOOO important!

For fucks's sake people...