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Tehran targets Canadian 'spies'

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    Iranian lawmakers call for probe to close embassy, accuse envoys of plotting with U.S. Tehran targets Canadian spies OLIVIA WARD Nov. 30, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2006
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      Iranian lawmakers call for probe to close embassy, accuse envoys of
      plotting with U.S.

      Tehran targets Canadian 'spies'
      Nov. 30, 2006

      In a sign of chilling relations between Iran and Canada, Iranian
      lawmakers have labelled Canada's embassy in Tehran a "den of spies"
      and called for a probe that could shut it down.

      "The Canadian embassy represents the `den of spies' and this is
      unacceptable for Iranians," said hard-liner Hamidreza Hajbabai, one of
      a group of parliamentarians accusing Ottawa of plotting with the
      United States, a long-term enemy of Iran.

      Another lawmaker, Javad Arian-Manesh, said the Majiles (parliament)
      would investigate the Canadian embassy for espionage, "and if it is
      proven, (we are) determined to shut down the mission."

      The Iranian foreign ministry, which is responsible for embassy
      relations, must take action if the suspicions are proven, Arian-Manesh
      added in a report in the Farsi-language newspaper Etemad, saying
      Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie — who controls the
      secret service — will meet with MPs to discuss the charges.

      The heated language used by the lawmakers is reminiscent of the
      rhetoric of militants during the 1979 hostage crisis, when
      revolutionary students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and
      relations with Washington reached a dangerous low.

      Former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, who helped rescue six Americans
      from Iran during the crisis, called the charges "ludicrous," and
      dismissed them as "a lot of rhetoric."

      "They are equating spying with getting to know your sources, which is
      good diplomacy," Taylor said from his home in New York, adding, "every
      embassy has people who can act as liaison officials with secret
      services. But Canada has no reason to run its own spy service in Iran,
      when other Western countries can do the job much better."

      Observers say the Iranian parliament's action is part of a tit-for-tat
      that followed the murder of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi
      after she was jailed in Tehran in 2003 for taking pictures during a
      student protest. Since then, Ottawa has led a charge at the United
      Nations to censure Iran for its poor human rights record.

      But, says Houchang Hassan-Yari, head of politics and economics at the
      Royal Military College of Canada, "parliament has limited power in
      Iran, and if the leadership doesn't take this on, it will not turn
      into a crisis."

      Ottawa's Department of Foreign Affairs says there is "absolutely no
      basis" for the charges made by the Iranian parliament.

      The Iranian embassy did not respond to calls yesterday.

      Those who watch the two countries' foreign policies closely say it's
      one more downward step in the unhappy progress of Canadian-Iranian

      "It's not a crisis, but more of a symptom of things going downhill,"
      said a Western diplomat who also worked in Iran. "Canada's stand on
      human rights and Iran's treatment of its citizens, like Zahra Kazemi,
      has angered people in authority. They want to retaliate."

      Ottawa's diplomatic list says there is no ambassador currently in
      Tehran, and the mission is headed by a junior official, a chargé

      Relations with Iran have cooled since they began in 1955, and a
      Canadian embassy was opened in Tehran six years later. But in the
      aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage rescue,
      normal relations were broken off. The embassy temporarily closed in
      1980 and only reopened in 1988.

      Now repercussions continue from the murder of Kazemi, and the more
      recent arrest of Canadian Iranian academic Ramin Jahanbegloo.
      Following a Canadian-led UN vote to reprimand Iran for its human
      rights violations, Tehran tabled a failed resolution condemning
      Canada's treatment of immigrants and indigenous people. Its officials
      also allege Ottawa is in league with Britain and the U.S., which
      is locked in a struggle over Iran's ambitions to develop a nuclear bomb.

      "Canada is no big deal in global politics," sneered Foreign Minister
      Manouchehr Mottaki in a recent Tehran news conference. "We all know
      Canada is acting on behalf of other countries and only after full
      co-ordination with London."

      The former Liberal government slapped restrictions on Canada's
      diplomatic relations with Iran, limiting contacts and halting visits
      or exchanges by Iranian officials to Canada. Little dialogue has taken
      place since then.

      Meanwhile, says Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst based in
      Israel who is writing a book on hard-line President Mahmoud
      Ahmadinejad, "it is extremely unlikely that the Canadian embassy is
      going to be attacked, or even investigated."

      If the Iranian government were "really angry," he said, its secret
      service VAVAK would already have looked for incriminating evidence to
      use against Canada.



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