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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks with journalists at Tehran's Mehrabad airport after his visit to Latin America, Jan.14, 2012. (RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks with journalists at Tehran's Mehrabad airport after his visit to Latin America, Jan.14, 2012. (RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)

Iranian regime 'frightens me,' Harper says Add to ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a consensus is growing among world leaders that Iran would have no hesitation using nuclear arms once they develop the weapons and the capability to deliver them.

“I’ve watched and listened to what the leadership in the Iran regime says, and it frightens me,” Mr. Harper said in a CBC interview.

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“In my judgment, these are people who have a particular, you know, fanatically religious worldview, and their statements imply to me no hesitation of using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purposes,” he said.

Asked why world leaders are not doing more about it, Mr. Harper said a consensus among world leaders has been growing “at least privately.”

Mr. Harper acknowledged that the current round of sanctions is not dissuading the Iranian regime from developing “the nuclear course.” However, the world remains uncertain about what exactly to do, he said.

Every country agrees on sanctions and is imposing sanctions “at some level,” he said. “Beyond that, these are not easy questions for the world,” he said.

Military action has been discussed, Mr. Harper added. “President [Barack] Obama’s said all options are on the table and I can certainly tell you that, when we talk about these issues, we talk about the full range of questions around these issues.

“But there is certainly no consensus on, you know, ultimately how to deal with this matter.”

Canada’s position on dealing with Iran is that allies should work together, Mr. Harper said. “I’ve raised the alarm as much as I can, but obviously I don’t advocate particular actions publicly. I work with our allies to see if we get consensus on actions,” he said.

Mr. Harper said he has no doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “There is absolutely no doubt they are lying,” Mr. Harper said, referring to statements by Iran that the nuclear program is for peaceful uses.

“The evidence is just growing overwhelming. This is not, as was the case of Iraq, merely the opinion of allies,” he said.

The development of nuclear weapons as one of the purposes of Iran’s nuclear program “is just beyond dispute at this point,” he said. “The only dispute is how far advanced it is and how far off it will be until they actually develop those weapons and develop the capability of delivering the weapons.”

Also during the interview, Mr. Harper linked the debate over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas with concern over Iran’s threat to blockade the main shipping route for oil in the Middle East.

“It’s pretty obvious what the right decision is … not just from an economic and environmental standpoint, but from an energy security standpoint,” Mr. Harper said.

“When you look at the Iranians threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, I think that just illustrates how critical it is that supply for the United States be North American,” Mr. Harper said.

Mr. Harper said the controversy in the U.S. over approval of the Keystone pipeline was “a wakeup call” to Canada. The issue indicates the degree to which Canada is “dependent or possibly held hostage” to decisions in the U.S.

The Conservative government is going to make “an additional push” to make sure Canada diversifies its energy markets,” he said. “It puts an emphasis on the fact that we must perform our regulatory processes to get timely decisions on diversification of our markets.”

Mr. Harper said he did not object to the regulatory process for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. His concern was to have “timely” decisions made.

“We can’t have processes that are just filibustered endlessly. That is not in anyone’s interests,” he said.

The government would seriously consider the recommendations of the environmental review, he said. “This government has in the past changed projects or even stopped projects if reviews were not favourable or indicated that changes had to be made,” he said, in an oblique reference to the government’s controversial decision to reject the Prosperity Mine in B.C.

He repeated his concern about foreign financed groups delaying the process. He did not agree that he was holding a double standard by not objecting to foreign companies advocating for the pipeline.

“Just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process is all about,” Mr. Harper said.

“I don’t object to foreigners expressing their opinion. But I don’t want them to be able to hijack the process,” Mr. Harper said.

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