AFP: Canada on Wednesday warned Iran’s mission in Ottawa against recruiting expatriates, after reports the embassy was doing so under the guise of cultural outreach programs.
OTTAWA (AFP)— Canada on Wednesday warned Iran’s mission in Ottawa against recruiting expatriates, after reports the embassy was doing so under the guise of cultural outreach programs.
“Iranian-Canadians have rejected the oppressive Iranian regime and have chosen to come to Canada to build better lives,” a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told AFP.
“The Iranian embassy should not interfere in their choices,” the official said, adding that Canadian security organizations “will act to prevent threats and intimidation of Canadians.”
The warning comes after Hamid Mohammadi, a cultural affairs counselor based out of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, was interviewed by an Iranian website aimed at Iranians living in Canada, reportedly urging expatriates to serve their home country from abroad.
In the Farsi-language interview, reprinted in part by Canadian media, Mohammadi discussed the growing Iranian population in Canada (estimated at 121,000) and how many recent immigrants had “preserved their strong attachments and bonds to their homeland” while second-generation Iranians were in “influential government positions.”
He apparently also urged all Iranian-Canadians to “occupy high-level key positions” and to “resist being melted into the dominant Canadian culture.”
More ominously, Mohammadi mapped out how his country planned to recruit Iranian-Canadians.
“We need to put into effect very concentrated cultural programs in order to enhance and nurture the culture in this fast-growing population. It is obvious that this large Iranian population can only be of service to our beloved Iran through these programs and gatherings,” he said.
Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, the head of mission at the embassy, denied the reported allegations.
“We strongly dismiss baseless allegations by few medias that ‘Iranian embassy has been recruiting ethnic Iranians in Canada to be of service to Iran,'” he told AFP in a statement condemning the “ridiculous” terror allegations.
Coming amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, the charges spooked experts cited by US media who warned of possible espionage, terror recruitment and even a possible attack on the United States from north of the border.