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Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced Canada is breaking diplomatic relations with Iran.

The Canadian Press

Iranian officials insulted Canadian diplomats to their faces when they tried to plead the cases of Canadians on death row there, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says.

Mr. Baird said that Canada had little influence or contact with Iranian authorities even before it closed the embassy in Tehran a week ago. But Canadians who tried to press the cases of arrested Canadians with Iranian officials or diplomats were met with worse than the cold shoulder, he said.

"When we've tried to call in Iranian diplomats and demarche in Tehran, I think it's been met with nothing but hostility," he said in response to a question from an audience member after a speech to the Conseil des Relations Internationales de Montréal.

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"The outrageous comments that we've received back from these encounters would stun you."

Mr. Baird said Canada will continue to rely on "friend and allies" to try to influence the Iranian regime over the cases of two Canadian citizens and one permanent resident who face death sentences in Iran. Some of those countries have "had better luck" with the regime than Canada.

He said Canada arguably didn't have much influence with Iran when Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kahzemi was beaten to death while in custody in 2003, and it certainly has not had much of a hearing in recent years.

"We've had little capacity to be able to interlock with the Iranian embassy. Obviously their support of international terrorism and their abysmal human rights record has made it very difficult to effectively liaise with them."

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