updated 9/30/2008 6:57:17 PM ET 2008-09-30T22:57:17

A senior campaign staffer for the governing Conservative Party resigned Tuesday after admitting he wrote a speech for Prime Minister Stephen Harper that plagiarized another leader's address urging support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The opposition Liberals released transcripts and video of speeches delivered by then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard on March 18, 2003, and one by Harper two days later in the Canadian Parliament when Harper was the opposition leader.

Liberal foreign affairs spokesman Bob Rae said nearly half of Harper's speech was a word-for-word recitation of Howard's comments.

"How does a political leader in Canada's Parliament, on such a crucial issue, end up giving the exact same speech as another country's leader?" Rae said during a speech in Toronto as the parties campaign for national elections next month.

Rae said it was further evidence "of how Canada's foreign policy is now in lockstep with the right-wing foreign policy of the Bush administration."

Canada's Liberal government at the time turned down Washington's request to send forces to Iraq, while Australia sent troops.

Conservative campaign worker Owen Lippert resigned later in the day after taking responsibility for the speech. He said he worked in Harper's office in 2003 and wrote the speech calling for Canadian troops to be sent to Iraq.

"Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader's speech," Lippert said in a statement.

He said neither Harper nor anyone else in Harper's office had any idea he copied from Howard's speech.

Duplicated lines
Rae said a number of lines from Howard's speech were also duplicated in a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal under Harper's byline on March 29, 2003. Rae said duplicated lines also appeared under Harper's byline in guest editorials in the Toronto Star, National Post and Ottawa Citizen.

Before Lippert's resignation, Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke had called the plagiarism allegation a desperate move and said the speech was five years old.

"It was three Parliaments ago, two elections ago when he was leader of a party that no longer exists," Teneycke said of Harper, who was leader of the right-of-center Canadian Alliance party at the time. The party later merged with the Conservative Party.

Teneycke called the move "desperate," and said "it's exactly why the Liberals are in the trouble they are in this election. They are focusing on five-year-old speeches."

Liberal party leader Stephane Dion said the plagiarism was not incidental.

"Canadians want their country to speak with its own voice on the world stage," Dion said. "Stephen Harper should be expelled."

Harper's Conservatives unseated the Liberals in 2006 after nearly 13 years in power and Canada has had closer ties with Washington since. Harper called early elections in hopes his party can increase its number of seats in Parliament in the Oct. 14 vote.

Recent polls say the Conservatives could win a majority of seats. As a minority government in the previous Parliament, the party had to rely on the opposition to pass budgets and legislation.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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