Canadian officials gave contradictory responses today when asked whether they would cooperate with the U.S. independent counsel who is to investigate Canada's $105,000 lobbying contract with former White House deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said flatly that Canada would invoke diplomatic immunity and refuse to allow staff at the embassy in Washington to be questioned in the investigation.

Later, however, when the matter was raised in the House of Commons by a member of the opposition Liberal Party, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who appeared to be caught off-guard by the question, seemed at first to suggest that Canada would be cooperative, then added vaguely that the "matter will be treated in a non-partisan manner."

When asked whether this meant he would direct embassy officials to provide evidence to the special counsel, the prime minister responded, "That's a hypothetical question."

Earlier today, Sean Brady, spokesman for the External Affairs Department, said that in refusing to participate in the inquiry, Canada would act to preserve the principle of diplomatic immunity. To waive immunity in this case might set a precedent, leading Canadian diplomats to become ensnarled in numerous other investigations in Washington, he said.

"While we have nothing to hide, the question at issue is Mr. Deaver's comportment in carrying out the contract and certainly not our behavior," Brady said. "We've been entirely above board."

The Canadian government took the same position when called upon earlier by congressional investigators to give testimony. Later, however, Canadian Ambassador Allan E. Gotlieb sent two letters to Congress on the matter.