By Michel Comte (AFP) – Oct 22, 2012
OTTAWA — Canada's top diplomat blasted Iran for human rights violations and religious intolerance at a meeting of world parliamentarians, drawing an angry response from Tehran's delegation.
Addressing 1,400 lawmakers at the gathering in Quebec City, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Bahais and Christians in Iran were "consistently threatened with death and torture, simply for believing."
He also said "the evil regime in Iran... remains the most significant threat to global peace and security," accusing Tehran of fomenting hatred against the Jewish people and supporting terrorist groups.
Iraj Nadimi, head of the eight-member Iranian delegation at the gathering, threw up his arms in a display of protest, and held up a small sign identifying his country.
Later he accused Baird of meddling in Iran's sovereign affairs, likening the remarks to Tehran using the forum to promote Quebec's independence from the rest of Canada.
In his speech, Baird called on delegates to return home after the 127th conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and press their respective governments to throw their support behind a human rights resolution on Iran at the United Nations.
"This regime stands for everything we parliamentarians should stand against," he said.
After Ottawa on September 7 announced the closure of its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada, the Iranians' attendance at the IPU was initially in doubt.
Ottawa did not cite a specific incident for the breakdown in relations, but issued a strongly worded attack on the Islamic Republic's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and its "incitement to genocide" against Israel.
Ottawa has also accused its rulers of failing to account for their disputed nuclear program.
Iran, which has been ruled by an Islamic theocracy since the 1979 revolution, is locked in a diplomatic stand-off with the West over its nuclear activities, which Tehran insists are entirely peaceful.
While Iran claims it is pursuing purely civilian atomic energy and research, Washington, Israel and their allies argue it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability.
In a scrum with reporters on Monday after his speech, Baird dismissed the Iranian delegation's reaction to his comments, saying "sometimes the truth hurts."
"Staying silent is never an option when people stone women, when they hang gays, when they incite genocide, when they say they want to wipe the Jewish people and the Jewish state off the map," he said.
"It is never good for anyone in civilized society to stay quiet. It is tremendously important as an international community that we speak with one voice."
In his speech, Baird was also critical of children being forced into marriages in Niger, of "actively and viciously implemented" laws against homosexuality in Uganda, and of the Assad regime for "despicably slaughtering innocent civilians."
The delegation of Uganda condemned what they called Baird's "arrogance and ignorance" for his criticism of Uganda's treatment of gays and lesbians.
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