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Canada boosted security measures at its embassy in Tehran, after Iranian lawmakers accused the 13-strong diplomatic mission of spying at the behest of the United States, a Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.

The accusations from Iranian lawmakers were dismissed by Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, who suggested that they amount to little more than political reaction to Canada's stand on Iran's human-rights record.

But Foreign Affairs Canada said it is taking the matter seriously.

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"We have taken steps to ensure the safety of our employees and our embassy and we'll monitor the situation closely," spokesman Rodney Moore said in Ottawa. He refused to give details.

Mr. MacKay said he is confident Iran will not make good on its threats to shut down the embassy.

"There's no basis whatsoever for the allegations," Mr. MacKay said in an interview.

"I think it's no coincidence that this comes on the heels of the United Nations General Assembly committee adaptation of the resolution that we sponsored with a number of other countries on Iran's human rights situation."

Earlier this week, several Iranian lawmakers asked for an investigation into the activities of the Canadian embassy and threatened to shut it down, the local Etemed newspaper reported.

The threat marked the latest in a series of diplomatic spats between the two countries and raised the spectre of the 1979 Islamic revolution, when students seized the United States embassy.

"Parliament will investigate the Canadian embassy's espionage," MP Javad Arian-Manesh was quoted as saying by the daily newspaper. "If it is proven, the MPs are determined to shut down the mission."

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Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie is to meet the MPs over the charges, the report added.

"The Canadian embassy represents the 'den of spies,' and this is unacceptable for Iranians," MP Hamidreza Hajbabai said.

Relations between Canada and the Islamic republic have been strained following the murder of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and the recent arrest of an Iranian-Canadian academic.

In April, Iranian authorities jailed Ramin Jahanbegloo after the Canadian citizen publicly challenged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim that the Holocaust did not take place.

A recent Canadian draft resolution submitted to a UN policy committee reprimanded Iran for its human rights violations. Islamic republic officials hit back by proposing a failed resolution that accused Canada of mistreating aboriginals and immigrants.

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki criticized Canada for what he said was its support of "American and Zionist crimes" in the Middle East.

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With a report from AFP

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