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Canada pushes G8 nations on Iran sanctions Add to ...

Canada will press for G8 countries to agree this month on a unified set of new sanctions aimed at Iran's nuclear-weapons program, at a meeting of the group's foreign ministers in Gatineau, Que.

"We are looking at sanctions," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "Canada obviously will be very present with the other countries to support initiatives that either come from the UN Security Council or that might stem from discussions that would take place on the margins of the G8, or at the G8 summit."

A resolution on new sanctions is being prepared for debate at the UN Security Council, but veto-wielding China prefers more diplomacy. Canada wants the G8 to act if the UN won't.

Mr. Cannon signalled that, before the June leaders summit in Huntsville, Ont., Canada will press for the G8 to take action at the meeting on March 29 and 30, when he hosts the foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

"This meeting will be a venue where that could be indeed determined," he said.

Most G8 countries are lobbying for tougher action against Iran's nuclear program, but Russia, one of Iran's major trading partners, has long been reticent.

Now the Russians are signalling a greater willingness to impose new sanctions. If they do, it could increase pressure on Iran - and influence China, Iran's biggest trading partner, to use its sway with Tehran.

Western allies are still hoping momentum for UN sanctions will be fuelled by Monday's report by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who said the agency cannot rule out the possibility that Iran is developing nuclear weapons because Tehran has not co-operated with inspectors.

The pace of the Security Council debate could determine whether the G8 moves quickly to its own sanctions at the foreign ministers meeting.

"Certainly we will be in a position to make a determination - depending on what takes place," Mr. Cannon said.

The meeting will centre on security issues, a core part of the G8's focus since it lost its economic role last year to the broader G20. Mr. Cannon said he wants the ministers to commit to co-ordinating collective efforts to address security gaps in weak states that can serve as staging grounds for organized crime or terrorism.

At the top of that list will be Yemen, the Arabian Gulf's poorest country. It has weak government control and is a dangerous training ground for terrorists, including foiled Nigerian bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly smuggled plastic explosives onto a Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

"The attempted terrorist attacks that took place on Dec. 25, I think, brought back front and centre the terrorist threat that is still a present danger," Mr. Cannon said.

Several G8 countries have programs in weak North African and Gulf states, focusing on border controls, counter-terrorism or combatting nuclear-material smuggling. But they often don't link their efforts.

"We've all looked at it piecemeal - what can we do in Africa, or what can we do in other countries," Mr. Cannon said. "If you look at the actions that have taken place over a large number of years, you do see individual initiatives. You don't see a co-ordinated approach to that initiative."

Yemen's former ambassador to Canada, Abdulla Nasher, said that's a long-running problem in his country: a hodge-podge of security programs to help a cash-strapped government that can't secure its territory or coasts against a northern rebellion and al-Qaeda. "They should diagnose what the problem is in Yemen - is it coast guard, is it police, is it systems, is it organization?" he said. "And each member of the G8, one can put in money, one equipment, but there should be a committee who will oversee the solutions."

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