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Canada closes embassy in Iran, expels Iranian diplomats

Canada has closed its embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats in Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced on Friday.

Baird said he was worried about the safety of diplomats in Tehran following recent attacks on the British embassy in the country.

“Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran,” Baird said Friday. “Our diplomats serve Canada as civilians and their safety is our No. 1 priority.”

Baird said the Iranian regime’s support of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Iran’s refusal to comply with the UN’s resolutions on its nuclear program and its regular threats to Israel make it a significant threat to global peace.

“It is among the world’s worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups,” said Baird in a statement.

“Moreover, the Iranian regime has shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel.”

Baird said diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended and all Canadian diplomatic staff have fled the country.

Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada issued an advisory against all travel to Iran.

“Because of heightened regional tensions, Canadians travellers in Iran will be closely watched by Iranian authorities,” reads a statement on the department’s website. “Iranian irritation at the recent Embassy closure may heighten this scrutiny of Canadians.”

Canadians were warned that using cameras in public places in Iran, travelling beyond well-established tourist areas, and casual interactions with Iranians could lead to an investigation and harassment.

“Canadian travellers may be arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained for a long period,” the statement reads.

Those seeking services of the Canadian consulate in Iran are being directed to the embassy in Turkey.

Canada’s relations with Iran have been strained at times since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After Canadians spirited American diplomats out of Tehran in 1980 during the post-revolution hostage crisis, the Canadian embassy was closed for eight years.

The two countries eventually returned to normal diplomatic relations with an exchange of ambassadors in 1996.

The relationship chilled again in 2003 after a freelance photographer with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship was killed while in custody in Iran.

Canada described the death as a state-sanctioned murder and recalled its ambassador.

Baird is currently in Russia with Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum set for this weekend.

The summit will bring together leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific countries to discuss trade issues, and Harper was expected to hold one-on-one meetings with the presidents of China and Russia.

During a meeting with Russia’s foreign affairs minister on Friday, Baird asked the country to reconsider its support of the Assad regime.

Russia has blocked UN Security Council resolutions that would have sanctioned the Assad regime, which has been trying to put down an 18-month uprising.

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