The Canadian government announced Friday that it has closed its embassy in Tehran and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave Canada, formally severing diplomatic ties and accusing the Islamic Republic of sponsoring terrorism.
"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.
Iranian diplomats in Canada were declared personae non gratae and given five days to leave the country, Baird said.
The decision to sever relations was based on a multitude of concerns, including Iran's support for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is engaged in a bloody crackdown on opponents, Baird noted. His statement was issued in Ottawa after he announced the diplomatic action while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok, Russia.
"The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide; it is among the world's worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups," the statement said.
Ottawa's relations with Iran had been strained throughout the three decades since the Islamic Revolution. Canada's then-ambassador to Tehran, Ken Taylor, helped rescue six Americans during the hostage crisis in 1980. Canada recalled its ambassador from Tehran nine years ago after a Canadian-Iranian photographer died in custody after being arrested for taking pictures outside a prison.
U.S. affairs with Iran have been handled through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran since relations were severed by Washington in 1980. Britain pulled the last of its diplomats out of Iran in November after an attack on its embassy.
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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks during an Aug. 11 visit to a refugee camp for displaced Syrians in Mafraq, Jordan. Credit: Jamal Nasrallah / EPA