DES MOINES (DTN)--Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien spoke with U.S. President George W. Bush by phone the morning of July 7, urging him to reopen the U.S. border to Canadian beef as soon as possible, says the Dow Jones news service.

Chretien spokesman Stephen Hogue said the prime minister outlined the actions that Canada has taken since a single Alberta cow tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encelopathy in May.

Hogue said Bush responded repeatedly that he wants "an early resolution to the issue," said the Canadian Press.

Bush also told Chretien that he has asked his officials to work quickly to reopen the border, Hogue said, however neither leader spoke of a timetable. Bush himself leaves for Africa today for a five-day visit.

But Sparks' daily news report notes that Bush administration officials will confer among themselves in a high-level meeting this week to discuss several pending issues regarding Canada's May 20 case of BSE. No Canadian officials are expected at those meetings.

But Sparks' Washington writes that the "BSE issue is clearly coming to some big decisions this week."

Japan's agriculture minister is expected to visit Washington on Thursday then meet with Canadian officials in Ottawa on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan ag minister Clay Serby does not buy the U.S. argument that pressure from trading partners like Japan and South Korea is making it difficult for Washington to re-open the border, writes Sparks.

Serby notes that what the Asians want is an assurance that U.S. beef exports don't contain any Canadian-source beef. Serby says that does not mean the border has to remain closed, Sparks writes.

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