Aug. 11, 2006. 01:00 AM
OTTAWA—Federal Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff frankly admits he goofed when he told the Star he was "not losing sleep" over civilian deaths in Lebanon.
"I think there’s no question this was a mistake," Ignatieff said in an interview yesterday with the Canadian Press.
The rookie Toronto MP and internationally acclaimed human rights expert has been mired in controversy since last week, when he made his first pronouncements on the Middle East crisis.
Ignatieff waded into the fray almost three weeks after most of his leadership rivals. In a newspaper opinion piece, he called for an immediate ceasefire and a UN-authorized international force to patrol a buffer zone between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
In a subsequent Star interview, he was asked whether he’d felt compelled to finally comment because of the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana, where at least 28 civilians were killed.
"It wasn’t Qana," Ignatieff told the Star. "Qana was frankly inevitable in a situation in which you have rocket launchers within 100 yards of a civilian population. This is the nature of the war that’s going on. …This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that."
An unedited transcript of the interview, provided by Ignatieff’s campaign, indicates Ignatieff prefaced the remarks by saying that "Qana was a tragedy. …It was a tragedy for the Lebanese and it was unfortunately a victory for Hezbollah."
Ignatieff, a one-time journalist himself, said he has no complaint about the way his comments were reported.
"One rule I understand about this is that you’re fully responsible for your words. You’re even responsible when they’re quoted out of context, as I believe I was in this instance," he said.