Canada closes embassy in Iran, to expel Iranian diplomats

Fri Sep 7, 2012 6:09pm EDT
 
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has suspended diplomatic relations with Iran, closing its embassy in Tehran and giving all Iranian diplomats in Canada five days to leave the country, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Friday, calling Iran the biggest threat to global security.

Baird, in Russia for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, said Canada's actions were not linked to growing speculation that Israel might launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

"Unequivocally, we have no information about a military strike on Iran," a spokesman quoted Baird as telling reporters.

Canada's Conservative government has long had very poor relations with Iran, arch-enemy of close Canadian ally Israel.

Baird cited Iran's nuclear program, its hostility toward Israel and Iranian military assistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which is locked in civil war with rebels. He also said Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.

"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," Baird said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Canada's action, calling it a bold leadership move that sends a clear message to Iran and the entire world.

"The determination shown by Canada is of great importance in order for the Iranians to understand that they cannot go on with their race toward nuclear arms. This practical step must set an example of international morality and responsibility to the international community," Netanyahu said in a statement.   Continued...

 
Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 18, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie