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Harper, Obama to talk perimeter security on sidelines of G8 meeting

DEAUVILLE, France - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama were expected to meet Thursday to discuss the next stage of the perimeter security agreement.

The meeting will take place on the sidelines of the broader G8 discussions this week in the seaside resort town of Deauville, France.

It's one of five bilateral discussions Harper is holding on Thursday as he seeks to advance Canada's trade and foreign policy agenda at the international level.

NATO involvement in Libya is one of the other topics up for discussion. Earlier this week, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to keep pummelling Gadhafi's forces until he is driven from power.

France, meanwhile, has been pushing for a more robust military approach as government and rebel forces have dug in their heels.

The UN-backed mission began as an effort to protect civilians, but has since morphed into a ferocious assault on targets in Tripoli in an attempt to drive Gadhafi from power.

``In terms of next steps, obviously leaders will be discussing this issue around the G8 table but the prime minister will want to take stock and exchange views with the various leaders he will be talking with later today,'' said Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas.

Harper will also be meeting with Cameron and the leaders of the European Union and European Commission. He held an earlier meeting Thursday with the prime minister of Japan.

Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is top of mind for the G8 as a whole.

The final declaration out of the summit is expected to be in the form of a road map for bringing greater stability to the region, especially for Egypt and Tunisia. The leaders of both those countries will meet with G8 leaders on Friday.

The agreement is being billed as similar to the massive Marshall Plan, which saw billions of U.S. aid poured into Europe to help rebuild its economies and institutions after the Second World War.

But the G8 nations want the money this time around to come out of multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Canada hasn't ruled out extending bilateral assistance of its own accord but officials are billing whatever agreement is reached as broader in scope than just cash.

``It's not exclusively about financial assistance,'' said a senior government official speaking on background.

``The partnership we want to have with (Middle East and North African) countries is about governance, it's about economic development, it's about economic reform and democratic reform in these countries.''

Harper's meeting with Obama was set for Thursday afternoon.

The prime minister's office says it's likely to result in some forward movement on the perimeter security deal.

Work on the pact, which aims to control who enters and leaves the North American continent in a consistent manner, began in earnest last February.

It would allow officials to ease security at the Canada-U.S. border, paving the way for a return to more free-flowing passage of vehicles and cargo.

During Harper's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Kan congratulated Harper on his recent election victory.

Kan also thanked Canada for its support in the aftermath of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.

Harper told Kan that Canada's offer of assistance in helping Japan recover from the effects of the disaster still stands.

Canadian officials are also helping the Japanese monitor the fallout from the quake-ravaged Fukushima nuclear plant.

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