OTTAWA -- Canadian soldiers have no business being in Afghanistan and their presence there merely enables the United States to carry on its "illegal and immoral" war in Iraq, prominent U.S. anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan said yesterday.

"I believe my country shouldn't be in Afghanistan anyway," Ms. Sheehan said at a news conference on Parliament Hill. "It's never about spreading freedom or democracy or making the world safe, it's about lining the war profiteers' pockets."

While lambasting President George W. Bush and the U.S. government for the Iraq war, Ms. Sheehan also fired broadsides at the UN-backed international mission in Afghanistan.

"My country supported Osama bin Laden in the fight against Russia," she said. "And now they go in and tear down that country. It's back in the hands of the drug lords, it's producing more opium than ever, and it's not safe. There's not any rebuilding going on, because it's being occupied by occupying forces."

Canada's deployment of 2,300 soldiers to Afghanistan simply "frees up more soldiers to be in Iraq," Ms. Sheehan said.

Ms. Sheehan and Canadian activists from the Council of Canadians and the War Resisters Support Campaign also called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "open the border" to U.S. military deserters.

"I believe our war resisters are legitimate refugees," Ms. Sheehan said.

Ms. Sheehan, whose son, Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April, 2004, gained prominence last year when she camped for days outside Mr. Bush's Crawford, Tex., ranch, demanding answers for the war.

Yesterday, she added her fame to the so-far unsuccessful efforts of Canadian peace activists to persuade the federal government to grant refugee claims by U.S. military deserters who don't want to serve in Iraq.

Last month, the Federal Court of Canada ruled against two U.S. Army deserters who had appealed for refugee status in Canada on the grounds that they might be jailed if they return to the United States.

The court ruled that prosecution in U.S. courts does not amount to persecution. Immigration and Refugee Board decisions had earlier rejected requests for political asylum from Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey.

Speaking alongside Ms. Sheehan at yesterday's media briefing, War Resisters organizer Michelle Robidoux said about 20 more soldiers have since fled to Canada. "We estimate there may be several hundred more who are living clandestinely in Canada," she said. "This is an echo of what happened during the Vietnam War."

The activists conceded that current war resisters are different from those in the Vietnam era because they volunteered to serve, rather than being drafted.

However, Ms. Sheehan said, the soldiers are within their rights to desert because many are "lied to" by U.S. military recruiters who tell them they won't have to fight in Iraq. "My son was an honourable, honest person lied to by his recruiter," she said.