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Canada remains skeptical about Iran’s charm offensive

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, left, during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters. [Flash90 photo]

Despite the phone call between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that marks the first time since the 1979 revolution that the two countries’ leaders spoke, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called on foreign leaders to maintain sanctions against Iran.

“Now is the time for the global community to maintain tough sanctions against Iran in order that it takes a different path on its nuclear program,” Baird said in his Sept. 30 address at the UN General Assembly.

Obama extended an olive branch to Iran during his speech at the General Assembly last week, promising that his administration would focus on improving tensions between Iran and the West over its nuclear program.

Rouhani pledged to “remove mutual uncertainties with full transparency,” but only if Iran could continue uranium enrichment for what he said were peaceful purposes.

Both Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper remain cautious about putting too much stock into Rouhani’s charm offensive.

Following Obama’s UN address last week, Harper said he “would not fault President Obama and our allies for trying, but my sincere advice would be, when it comes to the government of Iran, that we should carefully monitor deeds far more than words.”

Baird said Canada would like to see Iran put words into practice when it comes to its nuclear program, its support of terrorism and its human rights record.

“Sound bites do not remove threats to global security. Kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action,” he said.

Canada’s relationship with Iran remains strained since Canada severed diplomatic ties with the regime last year, calling it a state sponsor of terrorism.

 “We ended that diplomatic presence because of our increased uncertainty about the safety of our personnel in Iran and we will not return until we think those kinds of questions can be adequately addressed,” Harper said.

In November, Canada is planning to present the United Nations with a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights record.

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel, said he is “very satisfied with the Canadian response.”

He referred to Baird’s speech at the UN, where he spoke about “our collective responsibility to ensure that rhetoric is matched by more meaningful demonstration in actions.”

In Rouhani’s former position as a lead negotiator, he publicly boasted about “a strategy of delay, denial and deception… where they would engage in discussions while, at the same time, they were accelerating the process of trying to secure enriched uranium,” Fogel said.

“Given his own record, we have to be very suspicious of these efforts to reach out to the international community as nothing more than a ploy to disguise their efforts to continue with the program.”

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