* Foreign minister: Iran is main threat to world peace
* Canada says move not linked to possible military attack
* Israel's Netanyahu welcomes the Canadian move
* Canada says diplomats cannot work safely in Tehran
By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Sept 7 Canada has suspended diplomatic
relations with Iran, closing its embassy in Tehran and giving
all Iranian diplomats in Canada five days to leave the country,
Foreign Minister John Baird said on Friday, calling Iran the
biggest threat to global security.
Baird, in Russia for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) meeting, said Canada's actions were not linked to growing
speculation that Israel might launch an attack on Iran's nuclear
"Unequivocally, we have no information about a military
strike on Iran," a spokesman quoted Baird as telling reporters.
Canada's Conservative government has long had very poor
relations with Iran, arch-enemy of close Canadian ally Israel.
Baird cited Iran's nuclear program, its hostility toward
Israel and Iranian military assistance to the government of
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which is locked in civil war
with rebels. He also said Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.
"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant
threat to global peace and security in the world today," Baird
said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Canada's
action, calling it a bold leadership move that sends a clear
message to Iran and the entire world.
"The determination shown by Canada is of great importance in
order for the Iranians to understand that they cannot go on with
their race toward nuclear arms. This practical step must set an
example of international morality and responsibility to the
international community," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Israel, believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the
Middle East, sees the possibility of Iran developing an atomic
bomb as a threat to its existence and has said it may use
military means if diplomacy and sanctions fail.
Baird accused Iran of showing blatant disregard for the
safety of foreign diplomats. Britain's embassy in Tehran has
been closed since it was stormed by protesters last November.
"Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a
diplomatic presence in Iran," he said.
Canada's 10 diplomats in Iran have already left Tehran,
according to the Canadian foreign ministry.
There are currently 17 Iranian diplomats in Canada, the
Canadian foreign ministry added.
"Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave
within five days," Baird said in his statement.
The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, an
Iranian dissident group, urged European and Middle Eastern
nations to follow Canada's initiative.
"Severing relations with the religious dictatorship ruling
Iran and standing by the Iranian people ... are the only way to
rid the world of a terrorist and fundamentalist regime," the
council said in a statement.
The United States has not had a functioning embassy in
Tehran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, when 52 Americans were
held for 444 days.
During the hostage crisis, the Canadian embassy in Tehran
sheltered six U.S. diplomats who had avoided capture, and then
helped them leave Iran with Canadian passports in January 1980.
The Canadian embassy then closed, reopening only in 1988.
Bilateral ties worsened in 2003 when an Iranian-Canadian
photo journalist died in Tehran's Evin prison while in custody.