The Conservative government will not fund abortion as part of its G8 child- and maternal-health plan for poor countries, setting up a potential conflict with the U.S. and other G8 partners.

The Harper government until today had refused to say whether abortion would be covered under their plan.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda confirmed the move Monday on the eve of a meeting of G8 development ministers in Halifax Tuesday.

She said Canada could include family planning and contraception could be included in the plan, but abortion has been ruled out.

"The details remain to be determined," she told reporters Monday. "However, Canada's contribution will not include funding of abortions."

The bid threatens the possibility of a consensus being found at the two-day G8 meeting being held in June in Muskoka, Ont.

The Harper government has stated they want the health of mothers and children under the age of five in poor countries to be a key item at the meetings.

The threat of an abortion debate could overshadow what should be the most important item -- preventing nearly nine million child deaths a year -- Caroline Riseboro of World Vision Canada told The Canadian Press.

"This abortion debate is continuing when this initiative (on child and maternal health) has so much potential to do so much to save lives," she said.

"We hope that the debate isn't going to continue to focus on this but it's going to focus on how Canada can take a leadership role in child and maternal health."

Critics say Canada's position will put it in conflict with the U.S. and other G8 partners.

U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said abortion cannot be separated from reproductive health on a March trip to Canada, rankling the Harper government.

"You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions," Clinton said at the time.

Still, Oda insisted Monday the government had the backing of other nations.

"They all support Canada's initiative," she said. "There is no division on what it includes."

Liberal MP Bob Rae said the government's position is ridiculous.

"They have this great sort of double talk where they say, 'We don't want to reopen the abortion debate.' Well, they just did," he said.

He added that the Tories are trying to force their values on other nations.

With files from The Canadian Press