Iran Nuclear NewsCanada-Iran relations worsen after diplomat's expulsion

Canada-Iran relations worsen after diplomat’s expulsion

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AFP: Difficult relations between Canada and Iran have deteriorated further after the expulsion of Canada’s envoy to Tehran, analysts said Tuesday. OTTAWA (AFP) — Difficult relations between Canada and Iran have deteriorated further after the expulsion of Canada’s envoy to Tehran, analysts said Tuesday.

Ties between the two countries have been fraught since the death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, in 2003 at a Tehran prison.

According to Canada’s Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, the latest diplomatic expulsion Sunday resulted from an impasse over Ottawa’s refusal to approve Iran’s proposed ambassador to Canada.

“Canada and Iran have tried to come to an agreement on an exchange of ambassadors for some time. Unfortunately, we have as yet been unable to accept the candidates Tehran has submitted,” he said in a statement.

A Foreign Affairs Department spokesman added: “We considered each (Iranian) nominee on their records and on a thorough review of their qualifications, and we did not think they were appropriate choices especially given the challenging nature of our relationship.”

Tehran had initially accepted Ottawa’s latest nominee, John Mundy, but refused Sunday to accredit him, and sent him home — a move Bernier said Monday was “entirely unjustifiable.”

“Last week, I told him (Mundy) to expect something to go wrong because Iran had accepted him, but the Canadian government was continuing to rebuff Iran’s nominees,” commented Houchang Hassan-Yari, a professor at Canada’s Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.

“It was a delicate situation,” he told AFP.

For its part, Tehran said it “is surprised that the Canadian side has created a gap between its words and deeds in implementing diplomatic rules and adopted a unilateral approach.”

In Ottawa, the latest expulsion of Canada’s ambassador is seen as Tehran seeking to “downgrade” the importance of its relations with Canada, said a Foreign Affairs Department official.

Relations between the two countries have been tense since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah’s monarchy and created a theocratic Islamic republic.

After the 1979 seizure of the US embassy and the taking of American hostages in Tehran, Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor opened his home to six Americans and helped them escape to the United States the following year.

“That certainly angered and annoyed the Iranian regime,” said Charles-Philippe David, a politics professor at Quebec University in Montreal (UQAM).

“It has certainly left a bad taste and it helps to explain in part Canada and Iran’s antagonistic relationship in all that has followed, particularly in the Kazemi affair,” he said.

The two nations had made some progress in ameliorating ties since the 1979 hostage crisis, but Kazemi’s death reopened old wounds, he said.

Kazemi, 54, was detained in June 2003 for photographing a demonstration outside Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. She was beaten in custody, and died on July 10, 2003.

Canada protested when in November 2005, the Iranian judiciary acquitted intelligence agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi who was initially accused of the crime.

In May 2005, Canada restricted relations with Tehran after an Iranian appeals court cut short a retrial of the suspect after only one hour, refusing to hear arguments from lawyers of the victim’s family.

Last week, Iran’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial over Kazemi’s death, prompting a welcome statement from Ottawa, but a cool reaction from the victim’s family after repeated disappointments in the past.

Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality, insists Kazemi’s death is an internal affair and has asked Canada and the international community not to intervene.

The latest diplomatic row could complicate the Kazemi judicial review, said Hassan-Yari.

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