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Canada closes Tehran embassy, expels envoys

OTTAWA--Canada has closed its Tehran embassy and ordered Iranian diplomats expelled, in a damning severance of ties in which it accused the Islamic Republic of being the biggest threat to world peace.

Canada did not cite a specific incident that caused the breakdown, but issued a strongly worded attack on Tehran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's pariah regime and Iran's “incitement to genocide” against Israel.

In announcing the action Friday, Ottawa cited concerns for the safety of its staff at the diplomatic mission in Tehran and also attacked the failure of Iran's rulers to account for the nation's disputed nuclear program.

“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.

“Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended. All Canadian diplomatic staff have left Iran, and Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days,” he added.

The foreign minister pointed out that both Iran and Syria had been included in Canada's list of state-supporters of terrorism, which potentially opens to damaging legal action.

Baird also warned Canadians, including dual nationals, that Ottawa will not be able to provide assistance to them if they travel to Iran, and advised any Canadians in Iran to contact the Canadian mission in Turkey if needed.

Iran said it would give an “adequate reply” to Canada's decision, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast accusing the Canadian government of being “under the influence of the Zionist regime.”

However, Ottawa's move has gotten support from some of its allies in the West, who allege that the nuclear program aims to give Tehran a nuclear bomb, and have accused the “Iranian regime” of promoting international terrorism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Canada for cutting diplomatic relations, calling the decision “courageous” and “an example to the international community.”

The U.S. State Department said it “shared Canada's concerns” regarding Iran's support for the Syrian regime, its human rights record and its nuclear program.

“We want all countries to join us in isolating Iran as they see appropriate,” added State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell, adding “there are many different ways they can do that.”

An estimated 120,000 people of Iranian origin or descent live in Canada, according to official 2006 census data, and thousands of their relatives in Iran visit them every year.

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