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EXCLUSIVE: U.S. asks Canada for combat aircraft, refueling, surveillance to fight ISIS

WATCH: Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will not sit on the sidelines in the fight against ISIS, but he continues to face scrutiny from critics who say his government isn’t being transparent. Vassy Kapelos reports.

OTTAWA – The United States has detailed how Canada can contribute to coalition efforts against ISIS with combat aircraft, refueling capabilities and surveillance, Global News has learned.

The details are included in a letter to Defence Minister Rob Nicholson from the U.S. department of defense. Canada’s combat aircraft fleet are CF-18 fighter jets.

Global News revealed it was Canada that first asked how it could contribute to coalition efforts in countering Islamist rebels, which led to a letter Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he received from the Americans. The government has said the request is under review.

But on Friday, Harper expressly countered the suggestion that Canada approached the Americans.

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“Is this seriously suggesting that Canada is dragging the United States into a military conflict?” he said.

“Let’s be serious here, this is all a matter of public record, President Obama indicated in the summer that he would be undertaking action against the [ISIS] threat and that he would be talking to a broad range of partners to form a coalition and of course, he has contacted me in Canada.”

Harper said while Canada makes its own decisions based on capacities, “there is no reluctance here” to help in the fight against ISIS.

WATCH: Who asked who? Opposition MPs use the Global News report to question the Conservatives in the House of Commons.

“This phenomenon is a direct threat to the security of this country. People in this country should be under no illusion about this, as they are not in most of the world. These are extremely dangerous people, who if continue to operate like this will almost certainly launch terrorist attacks against a range of targets across the world including this one, and that has to be countered,” he said.

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“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch. We do our part, that’s always been how this country has handled its international responsibilities and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

WATCH: U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman addresses the interactions between Canada and the U.S. over Canada’s role in the coalition against ISIS

READ MORE: U.S. says Canada offered to help in Iraq – not the other way around

U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman also weighed in, saying that it is Washington that’s asking Canada to expand its role in the Middle East

Heyman said the sequence of conversations and communications between the two countries – who asked what of whom –  is of no matter.

He said Canada and the United States have had ongoing conversations at the highest levels about how to collaborate on the crisis in northern Iraq.

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Harper first announced the letter from the U.S. in front of a business audience in New York on Wednesday.

“The United States just recently in the last couple of days has asked for some additional contribution and we’re weighing our response to that,” he said in a question-and-answer session.

In an email to Global News, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Secretary of Defense said it was Canada that reached out first.

“The Canadians requested additional details on what they could do to contribute to coalition efforts to aid the Government of Iraq in countering [ISIS] and (the Department of Defense) sent a letter describing areas where their contributions would be helpful,” Cmdr. Elissa Smith wrote in an email to Global News.

WATCH: Thomas Mulcair wants Prime Minister Harper to call a full and lengthy debate on involvement in Iraq

The Conservative government has promised the House of Commons would vote on a combat mission in northern Iraq.

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Thursday cabinet would consider an expanded military role and that it would come before the House.

So far the government has committed 69 special advisers to Iraq for a 30-day non-combat mission ending October 4.

– with files from The Canadian Press and Laura Stone

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