Canada abruptly closed its embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats in Ottawa Friday, citing safety concerns in Tehran and the long-standing view that Iran is a significant threat to global peace.
"The Iranian regime has shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday, formally listing Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
"Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran,” he said in a statement. “Our diplomats serve Canada as civilians and their safety is our No. 1 priority."
A senior official told CTV News there was a credible threat to Canadian diplomats in Iran.
Baird said the Iranian regime’s support of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Iran’s refusal to comply with the UN’s resolutions on its nuclear program and its regular threats to Israel make it “among the world’s worst violators of human rights.”
“This was a decision that we took very seriously,” Baird told CTV’s Power Play Friday afternoon in a telephone interview from Russia, where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Baird denied that the move was a preemptive response to a planned Israeli attack on Iran, as some observers have speculated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly hinted that he is prepared to authorize an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities if international sanctions and diplomatic measures don’t do the trick.
 “We’ve received no notice from any other country…that there is any imminent military action,” Baird said, adding: “Unequivocally no.”
He said Ottawa waited to formally sever ties with Iran until all Canadian diplomats and embassy staff safely left the country. The last members of the group left Iran yesterday, he said.
Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days.