World security leaders gather in Halifax while violence in Middle East escalates

Defence Minister Peter MacKay. (CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI Agency Files)

Defence Minister Peter MacKay. (CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI Agency Files)

Rebecca Thompson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:21 PM ET

HALIFAX - Rising violence between Israel and Hamas weighed heavy on the agenda of the International Security Forum, a gathering of world security leaders that kicked off Friday in Halifax.

"We continue to bear witness to atrocities across the Middle East, and the possibility of even greater atrocities if Iran successfully builds a nuclear bomb," Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in his opening remarks, calling the world's security situation "unpredictable and often chaotic."

The fourth annual conference draws hundreds of military leaders and academics, who will spend the next two days discussing major global security challenges.

The meeting and its focus on the Middle East is eerily timely. On Friday, Israeli prepared to call up 75,000 reservists after Palestinian militants nearly hit Jerusalem with a rocket for the first time in decades and fired at Tel Aviv for a second day.

Disgraced ex-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus, whose extra-marital affair has made worldwide headlines, was scheduled to speak, but has since backed out due to the ongoing scandal.

U.S. Senator John McCain is scheduled to be a guest speaker Saturday. And Alberta Premier Alison Redford is also on the bill to speak on North American oil challenges.

Other participants include Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Jean-Paul Palomeros, former Afghanistan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Canada's own Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson.

Another hot topic expected to be part of the discussion is the future role of the U.S. in world security issues, at a time when a "fiscal cliff" is threatening to pull back on the country's massive military spending.


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