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World RCMP called in to investigate Canadian servers hosting Syrian websites

RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.

dave chan The Globe and Mail

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has called in the RCMP to investigate revelations that Syrian government web sites are being hosted on Canadian servers.

A Globe and Mail story on Wednesday said a report from the Citizen Lab, a cyber-security research centre at the Munk Centre in the University of Toronto, found that more than a dozen Syrian government websites, including the ministries of culture and transport, are being carried by Canadian Web servers. In addition, Citizen Lab researchers say that websites belonging to a Syrian government-affiliated TV station and the media arm of Hezbollah were also hosted in Canada.

The majority of the Canada-based sites are hosted by a Montreal-based firm called iWeb.

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Canada has imposed sanctions against Syria in recent months over a brutal government crackdown on its citizens. Ottawa has designated Hezbollah a terrorist entity.

"Canada has taken increasingly aggressive action against the Assad regime, including imposing sanctions and a travel ban against key regime members," a DFAIT spokeswoman said late Thursday. "We have asked the RCMP to investigate this report to ensure our sanctions are respected."

On Thursday, iWeb responded to the report.

"Canada has enacted targeted sanctions against certain Syrian government entities and individuals. Canada has not enacted a broad embargo against doing business with Syria," the company said in a statement.

It said none of the Syrian government entities mentioned in the report are subject to Canadian sanctions except Addunia TV, a station affiliated with the Syrian government that has been accused of inciting violence against Syrians.

"iWeb has not provided any services directly to Addunia TV and is investigating whether its facilities have been used by one of its customers for the benefit of Addunia TV without its knowledge," the company said. "iWeb will be taking all appropriate steps in light of its findings."

The company added that it discovered in 2008 that it had inadvertently hosted two websites affiliated with Hezbollah. "When iWeb learned of the websites' affiliation, it cancelled its web hosting services," it said.

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