Bloomberg: Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Iran is “hiding” the truth about its nuclear program and added that the effectiveness of new sanctions will be reviewed by Group of Eight officials when they next meet in September.
By Greg Quinn
July 31 (Bloomberg) — Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Iran is “hiding” the truth about its nuclear program and added that the effectiveness of new sanctions will be reviewed by Group of Eight officials when they next meet in September.
Cannon, who presides over meetings of G-8 foreign ministers this year, led a March summit where he helped push for sanctions against Iran that were imposed this week by Canada and the European Union, and earlier by the U.S. Iran has denied allegations from the U.S. and some of its allies that the nuclear program may be intended for weapons development.
Iran “must allow unfettered access to the inspectors and must make sure that it doesn’t develop a nuclear capacity other than for peaceful purposes,” Cannon said in an interview yesterday in Bloomberg’s Ottawa office. “For the last 20 years Iran has indeed been hiding the truth from everybody.”
Canada and EU governments this week imposed their toughest sanctions yet on Iran, backing U.S. efforts to force the country to halt uranium enrichment and stop any pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
“We will analyze how these sanctions are holding,” Cannon said.
The package includes a ban on new investment in or equipment sales to Iran’s oil and natural-gas industries, restrictions on export-credit guarantees and insurance, and closer monitoring of banks doing business with Iran.
The United Nations Security Council imposed a fourth round of restrictions on Iran in June, while President Barack Obama on July 1 expanded U.S. measures targeting Iranian gasoline imports and banking access. Iran is the second-largest oil producer in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia.
Iran has ignored three previous sets of UN sanctions and rejects Western allegations that it wants to build an atomic bomb. Iran says the nuclear program is designed to generate electricity for a growing population and that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it is entitled to continue such activities.
China disagrees with the EU’s “unilateral” sanctions against Iran and would prefer the nuclear-fuel supply issue be solved through dialogue, Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said in comments posted on the ministry’s website yesterday.
Cannon said G-8 ministers will also discuss North Korea when they next meet.
“We have two states, Iran and North Korea, who aren’t behaving in a responsible fashion,” Cannon said. “They will be in our discussions.”
North Korea has been under renewed international pressure since a South Korean warship was sunk in March. An international panel said it was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine, a charge that country has denied.
“We have condemned that to the highest extent,” Cannon said of the ship’s sinking. Canada, which helped with the international investigation of the sinking, said in May it would impose new sanctions on North Korea.
Cannon, 62, has been foreign minister since October 2008, and began in the federal cabinet as transport minister when he was first elected in 2006 in a Quebec district. He comes from a political family, with five relatives having served in Parliament and three others in Quebec’s provincial legislature.
On Afghanistan, where Canada has 2,800 soldiers, Cannon reiterated the country’s military mission will end next year. Canada has had 151 military casualties in Afghanistan, more than in any conflict since the Korean War, and a diplomat was also killed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t outlined a detailed plan for Canada’s involvement after next year. In a speech that opened the last session of Parliament in March, the government said, “After 2011, our effort in Afghanistan will focus on development and humanitarian aid.”
“We will be looking at the ways that we are going to be going forward in those areas, as well as our diplomatic relations with the government of Afghanistan,” said Cannon, who this month attended a major donors’ summit in Kabul.
“The international commitment is strong enough, the support is strong enough to be able to help this country in the right direction,” Cannon said. “The biggest risk of course is to fall back to the periods that are pre-2001.” The Taliban regime ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
The Conservatives led by Harper lack a majority of seats in the House of Commons and won opposition support to extend the combat mission to 2011. Now that the military mission is ending, Cannon said the government may not need to return to Parliament to seek a vote on its plans in Afghanistan.
“The only reason why previously we went through this and we had a motion is that called upon the engagement of Canadian forces elsewhere,” Cannon said. “The prime minister will make the determination as to what he indeed wants to do with the opposition parties.”