Iran: By Suspending Ties, Canada Has Sacrificed Its National Interests for Israel's Sake

Statement comes day after Canada closed its embassy in Iran over its nuclear program, its hostility toward Israel and military assistance to Bashar Assad.

Canada has sacrificed its national interests for the sake of Israel by suspending diplomatic ties with Iran, a government spokesman said Saturday in Tehran.

"The decision by Canada showed that this country has sacrificed the interests of its nation for the sake of the Zionists by following their policies against Iran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

In a statement Friday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that Canada had closed its embassy in Tehran and had given Iranian diplomats in Ottawa five days to leave the country.

Iranian state media quoted Mehmanparast as saying that Tehran would soon reply to Canada's "hasty" decision.

There are almost half a million Iranians living in Canada, including a large number of immigrants in Toronto, where Iran had recently planned to open a consulate.

It was not clear what specifically prompted Canada's sudden move, although Baird said the Iranian government was "the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."

He accused Iran of "providing increasing military assistance" to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, refusing to comply with UN resolutions on its nuclear program, and routinely threatening "the existence of Israel."

"The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide," Baird said in a statement.

"It is among the world's worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups, requiring the Government of Canada to formally list Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act."

Accusing Iran of showing blatant disregard for the safety of foreign diplomats, Baird said "Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."

"Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran ... Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended," he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the Canadian Prime minster Steven Harper on Friday, following Canada's announcement.

"This is a bold decision that is sending a clear message to Iran and to the entire world, one week after a show of anti-Semitism and hate in Tehran. The Canadian government took a moral step," the prime minister said. 

"The resolve that was demonstrated by Canada is highly important in order for the Iranian regime to understand that it cannot continue its race toward nuclear weapons. This practical move should set an example for the rest of the international community that needs to join Canada by setting clear red lines for the Iran regime."

Ottawa has long had poor relations with Iran, in part because of its enmity towards Canadian ally Israel.

Canada's relations with Iran have been strained since former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor helped rescue six Americans from Iran during the hostage crisis in 1980.

Relations became even rockier in 2003 after Zahra Kazemi, a freelance photographer with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship, died in custody after being arrested while taking photographs outside a Tehran prison in 2003. Canada then recalled its ambassador. Iran also ordered Canada's ambassador to leave the country after trying unsuccessfully to come to an agreement on an exchange of ambassadors for some time.

All Iranian diplomats in Canada have now been declared "personae non gratae," Baird said. He also told Canadians to avoid traveling to Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad March 2, 2012 (AP)