Washington, Sept. 7 — Canada on Friday suspended diplomatic ties with Iran, closing its embassy there and branding the Islamic republic as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The announcement came in a statement by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who said, “Iran is among the world's worst violators of human rights which shelters and materially supports terrorist groups.
"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” said Baird, in Russia for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Iranian diplomats in Canada have five days to leave.
The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in April 1980 after the Tehran embassy hostage crisis the previous year.
Baird, in his statement, noted that Iran supports the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad which is waging a bloody war against its own people. He also cited Iran’s refusal to obey U.N. resolutions to halt its nuclear-weapons program.
Opponents of the regime in Canada had been calling on the government to close the Iranian embassy after Iran's cultural counselor in Ottawa, Hamid Mohammadi, suggested that Iranian expatriates could be recruited to work for the regime. The implication was that those who still have family in Iran might be susceptible to pressure.
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.
Baird also noted Iran’s threats against Israel; Iran repeatedly has called for the annihilation of the Jewish state, denies the Holocaust and frequently speaks of attacking Western countries. The Islamic republic also provides training, arms and money to proxies such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon and has vowed to share its nuclear technology with like-minded countries.
Iran has ignored demands by the international community to halt or make transparent its nuclear program. The United Nations, United States and the European Union have passed several rounds of sanctions on Iran to pressure it to stop developing nuclear weapons.
But the Iranians remain defiant and have even stepped up their efforts.