Engagement with Iran 'all we have': Baird

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird seen here addressing the United Nations Generally Assembly in November, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS


OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is counting on statecraft to rein in Iran and its nuclear ambitions next year.

Baird, who views the Islamic regime as "the biggest threat to peace and security in the world today," hopes a new diplomatic push by the international community will end its nuclear stalemate with Iran's leadership.

"I think that's all we have at this stage. We have the sanctions regime, we have the diplomacy," Baird said in a year-end interview with QMI Agency.

"The Iranian regime would be wise to look at what the international community has said, look at what the leader of the free world (US President Barack) Obama has said and to give serious reflection to that."

The Obama administration has focused on attempting to engage diplomatically with Iran while working to isolate the regime through economic sanctions. But it has made it clear there's a timeline on diplomacy - that the regime must be prevented from developing a nuclear weapon.

Israel also repeatedly warned it is ready to take military action if Iran crosses a so-called "red line" - enriching 90% of the uranium needed to fuel an atomic bomb.

Western powers claim Iran's nuclear program is for military purposes. Tehran maintains it's for peaceful civilian uses.

Over the course of 2012, the Canadian government shuttered its embassy in Tehran, expelled the regime's staff from Canada and tightened its sanction screws over Iran's continued push to refine uranium, as well as for its support of Syria's ruling regime and Hamas and Hezbollah.

Baird says while UN and other economic sanctions imposed on the regime for its nuclear program "are beginning to really bite," he admits he's frustrated Iran's leadership has refused to change course.

Like Baird, many diplomats and analysts see Obama's re-election in November as an opportunity for a renewed diplomatic push.

"There's no doubt they have not changed course and now that the American elections are over, we welcome the strong and unequivocal commitment that President Obama has made on these issues," the minister said.

The so-called P5+1 group - the US, China, France, Russia, the UK plus Germany - is in talks to start a fresh round of negotiations with Iran early in the new year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will also be pushing for access to military sites when it meets with Iranian officials in January.

- With files from Reuters

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