The Ottawa Citizen: Canada affirmed its support yesterday for United Nations' efforts to curb Iran's growing nuclear ambitions, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said. The Ottawa Citizen
Mike Blanchfield

Nuclear stance lets minister mend fences with U.S., maintain relevance at UN

Canada affirmed its support yesterday for United Nations' efforts to curb Iran's growing nuclear ambitions, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said.

"We are very preoccupied by the nuclear proliferation. And we are not pleased at all with the way the Iranians are conducting this level of nuclear proliferation," Mr. Pettigrew said in Washington, following a luncheon meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The international meeting at the U.S. State Department was Mr. Pettigrew's first since becoming foreign affairs minister, a deliberate attempt by Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberals to re-engage President George W. Bush's administration after a shaky start between the two governments earlier this year.

The meeting was more symbolic than substantive, but served two purposes for Canada.

It gave the government another opportunity to vent its anger at Iran over its handling of the beating death of Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in a Tehran prison last summer. And it signalled that Canada sees the issue of nuclear non-proliferation as a way to maintain its relevance at the UN.

The United States is considering asking the UN Security Council to review Iran's nuclear program with an eye toward possible sanctions.

Canada does not have a seat on the Security Council, so it will have little influence over whether the UN adopts sanctions.

However, Canada has traditionally worked through the UN to support the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been searching for evidence that Iran has tried to enrich uranium, which would be a violation of the treaty. Iran says its wants to develop peaceful nuclear technology to meet its energy needs, a claim the U.S. dismisses.

Canada is still smarting from Tehran's handling last month of the murder trial of the accused killer of Ms. Kazemi, who was beaten to death in an Iranian prison last summer after she was arrested taking photographs of a demonstration. Iran abruptly halted the trial, acquitting the only person accused in her killing of "semi-premeditated murder."

Canada has withdrawn its ambassador to Iran in protest.

Mr. Pettigrew's demands for Iran to return Ms. Kazemi's body so an independent autopsy can be performed have fallen on deaf ears.

Mr. Pettigrew referred yesterday to Ms. Kazemi's death as an "assassination" and condemned the Tehran regime's record of human rights.