OTTAWA - The Obama administration is refusing to end the U.S. ban on Maher Arar, dashing the hopes of those looking for a policy shift.
The Syrian-Canadian computer engineer remains on a U.S. terrorism watch list, despite having been exonerated and winning a multimillion-dollar settlement from the Canadian government. American officials say their policy on Arar - who was extradited by the U.S. and tortured in a Syrian prison - hasn't changed with the arrival of Barack Obama.
"Mr. Arar is not welcome in the United States," Terry Breese, a senior U.S. diplomat, told Canadian reporters Thursday.
"A royal commission made its own decisions here in Canada, but the United States remains of the view that he is not admissible to the United States."
Breese also said the American government will not release any evidence it has against Arar because much of the information is classified.
Breese made his remarks during a visit by Jane Lute, the new U.S. deputy secretary of homeland security.
Lute downplayed suggestions - fuelled by her boss, Janet Napolitano - that the new administration could treat the Canadian and Mexican borders the same.
Napolitano's remarks last month frightened businesses that rely on fluid cross-border trade, but Lute said "there is no one-size-fits-all" scenario for North American borders.
She said that even within a single border, no two parts are exactly identical.
Lute was asked during a news conference whether the new administration would adopt a different policy toward Arar, but she turned the question over to Breese.
The Canadian government has repeatedly asked for Arar's name to be cleared.
Arar's supporters say there's no reason for the ban, which remains in place two years after Canadian officials reviewed the U.S. evidence against Arar and found it unconvincing.
"It's very disappointing," said Kerry Pither, an author who has written about Arar's case.
"A lot of us had hoped that Mr. Obama would take the advice of the New York Times."
The newspaper ran an editorial before Obama's recent trip to Ottawa urging the new president to "admit the grave injustice" done to Arar.
Arar won a $10.5-million settlement from the Canadian government and has launched a lawsuit against former Bush administration cabinet members John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge, FBI director Robert Mueller, and U.S. immigration officials.
He is awaiting a decision after arguing before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to keep his case alive.
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