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Date:7 September 2012

Author: Laura Payton, CBC New

Canada Closes Embassy In Iran, Expels Iranian Diplomats

Voice of Freedom :Canada has suspended diplomatic relations with Iran and is expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced in a statement today.

Speaking to reporters in Russia, where he's attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-Operation summit, Baird said the government is formally listing Iran today as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. That will theoretically allow Canadians affected by terrorism supported by the Iranian regime to sue.

"Iran is among the world's worst violators of human rights. It shelters and materially supports terrorist groups," Baird said.

"Unequivocally, we have no information about a military strike on Iran," he added.

In the statement, Baird said Canada has closed its embassy in Iran, effective immediately, and declared personae non gratae all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada. Those diplomats must leave within five days. All Canadian diplomats have already left Iran.

"Canada's position on the regime in Iran is well known. Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," he said in the statement.

The statement cited Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, its failure to comply with UN resolutions on its nuclear program, and its threats against Israel.

The statement also makes reference to Iran's "blatant disregard" of the Vienna Convention that guarantees the protection of diplomatic personnel.

Last November, Iranian students stormed the British Embassy in Tehran and ransacked its offices. Britain's foreign office summoned an Iranian diplomat in London, amid complaints that Iran failed to provide proper security to the embassy and didn't do enough in response to the attack.

Iran hasn't had a full ambassador in Canada since 2007, following a breakdown in relations after Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi was tortured and killed there in 2003.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is asking Canadians in need of assistance in Iran to contact the embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Anyone who needs urgent assistance should call the department's emergency line at 613-996-8885 or send an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

Former diplomat Ken Taylor, who served as Canada's ambassador in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian revolution, says having a presence on the ground in a country is important. If the country's government won't interact, he said, there's still intelligence to gather.

"As a diplomat, I think you never give up. Of course, if it's a breach of diplomatic protocol, if in fact your diplomats are threatened, if in fact a country's conduct is not acceptable, this may proceed from persona non grata to the closing of the embassy," Taylor said.

"Obviously, though, the Canadian government is sending a message. Whether or not this is the best means to send a message is of course up to the government's cabinet.

"It's more than just a practical or technical severance of the relationship," he said.
Activists called for embassy closure

Pro-democracy activists in Canada renewed calls over the summer for the embassy in Ottawa to be closed.

The calls were sparked by a news report that said Iran's cultural counsellor in Ottawa, Hamid Mohammadi, suggested Iranian expatriates should be nurtured to be of service to Iran.

Baird issued a warning on July 13, saying the Iranian government has no right to interfere with Canadians who left Iran to build a better life.

"Obviously we're concerned by some of the reports that we've heard," Baird said.

"It is completely inconsistent with any diplomatic mission for the Iranian mission in Ottawa to interfere in the liberties that [Iranian-Canadians] enjoy in Canada. Any police organization will certainly take a look at any serious allegations that are raised in terms of their conduct.

"And obviously my department will watch very closely and will be pleased to hear any representations on anything that the embassy has done that is inconsistent with their function as diplomats in Ottawa."

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