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Canada bars British lawmaker over Hamas support

world Updated: Mar 21, 2009 00:20 IST

British lawmaker George Galloway has been blocked from visiting Canada because of his support of Hamas, which is banned here, the Canadian immigration minister's office said on Friday.

"I'm sure Galloway has a large Rolodex of friends in regimes elsewhere in the world willing to roll out the red carpet for him," Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, told AFP.

"Canada, however, won't be one of them," he said in an email.

Galloway was to give a speech in Toronto at the end of the month, but has been denied entry over his opposition to Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said Britain's Sun newspaper.

Velshi said Galloway was deemed inadmissible to Canada due to national security concerns.

It was an "operational decision" by border security officials "based on a number of factors, not only those mentioned in the Sun piece," he said.

Such a decision could be overturned by ministerial order, but it is not warranted in this case, he said.

"We're going to uphold the law, not give special treatment to a street-corner Cromwell who brags about giving 'financial support' to Hamas, a terrorist organization banned in Canada," Velshi said.

Opposition New Democratic Party MP Olivia Chow however accused the government of "censorship" for not allowing Galloway to tout his anti-war messages in Canada.

Denying him entry to this country is "an affront to freedom of speech" and shows the Canadian government "is frightened of an open debate on an unpopular war," she said in a statement.

This week, Galloway traveled to Gaza at the head of a humanitarian convoy. He praised the Palestinian "resistance" and condemned Israel's 22-day offensive launched in December, in which 1,300 Palestinians died, as "genocidal aggression."

The British MP also donated thousands of dollars and dozens of vehicles to the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip.