ROME (AP) — Italy announced Monday it will protect Canadian interests in Iran following Ottawa's recent severing of diplomatic relations with Tehran.
Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Canada had made the request after the Sept. 7 closure of the Canadian embassy in the Iranian capital. Canada branded the Islamic republic as the most significant threat to world peace when it made the move, including ordering Iranian diplomats to leave.
International tensions are running high over suspicions that Tehran is rushing to develop nuclear weapons. Iran, however, insists its nuclear activities are aimed at peaceful purposes like power generation and medical treatment.
The Italian foreign ministry said "it is a decision taken on the basis of the traditional existing relations with an important friendly and allied country."
"Canada conveys its deepest gratitude to the government of Italy for agreeing to provide this valuable assistance," Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said.
Baird said his government began assessing its presence in Iran several months ago, especially after Iranian authorities did nothing to stop an incursion against the British embassy in November.
Severing ties also boosted Canada's close relationship with Israel, Tehran's arch-enemy.
Iran called Canada's embassy closure "hasty and unwise" and its parliamentary speaker canceled a visit to Canada in protest.
Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran. Canada's break with Tehran took away another channel for Washington to get firsthand diplomatic assessments of Iranian affairs.
Washington hasn't had diplomatic ties with Tehran since after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which saw a 444-day siege of hostages in the American embassy. Canada's then-ambassador to Tehran helped rescue six Americans during the hostage crisis. That assistance strained Canadian-Iranian relations, which only resumed on the ambassadorial level in 1996.
Ottawa's relationship with Tehran soured again in 2003 after a photographer with Canadian-Iranian citizenship died in custody following her arrest while taking photographs outside a Tehran prison.