Associated Press: Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Tuesday that Canada has not ruled out sanctions against Iran to protest the death in custody of a Quebec-based photojournalist.
Pettigrew, who was on his first visit to the European Union as Canada's new foreign affairs minister, said he discussed the case of slain Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi with EU counterparts during two days of meetings in Brussels. Associated Press

By CONSTANT BRAND

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Tuesday that Canada has not ruled out sanctions against Iran to protest the death in custody of a Quebec-based photojournalist.

Pettigrew, who was on his first visit to the European Union as Canada's new foreign affairs minister, said he discussed the case of slain Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi with EU counterparts during two days of meetings in Brussels.

"I raised it in every one of my meetings," Pettigrew said after meeting Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht.

Pettigrew met with EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten, the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to discuss Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pettigrew said that he was "exchanging and comparing notes" with the EU about what Canada and Europe could do to improve human rights in Iran, including possible diplomatic action in the Kazemi case.

He acknowledged, however, that unilateral sanctions, either political or economic, against Iran by Ottawa would do little unless backed by stronger powers like the 25-member EU or Washington.

"We are considering our options at this time," Pettigrew said. "I don't think sanctions by Canada would go very far."

Pettigrew hoped that an appeal of an Iranian court decision vindicating the only defendant brought to trial so far would bring to light how Kazemi died. He also appealed to Iran to return Kazemi's body to Canada so authorities there could determine how she died.

"We are clearly outraged," Pettigrew said. ". . . What we want is to know what has happened. . . . We hope very much that (a new) trial will not be the farce the first trial was."

Kazemi, a Canadian freelance journalist of Iranian origin, died July 10, 2003, while in detention for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests against the Iranian government.

In late July, a Tehran court acquitted Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, the sole defendant in the case.

Iranian authorities initially had said Kazemi died of a stroke. Later, a presidential committee found she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage.

Iran-Canada relations, soured by the slaying and subsequent burial in Iran against the wishes of Kazemi's son in Canada, further deteriorated after Iran rejected the idea of Canadian observers attending the trial.

Relations were further strained when the Canadian ambassador was not allowed to attend the last session of the open trial.

Pettigrew said he also discussed other issues such as Iraqi reconstruction as well as the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region with his EU counterparts.

He also condemned the hostage taking of two French journalists in Iraq.

Pettigrew will also visit Moscow and Berlin later this week.

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