OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that it plans to lift its sanctions on Tehran and said that if Airbus is allowed to sell to Iran, then its aircraft maker Bombardier Inc should be allowed to export there as well.
"If Airbus is able to do it, why Bombardier will not be able to do it? In which way it's helping Canada, or the Iranian people, or Israel, or anyone, that Canada is hurting its own industry?" Dion said in an exchange with reporters.
Asked specifically if Bombardier would be allowed to do business with Iran as soon as sanctions are lifted, Dion said: "Legitimate business, certainly."
Iran announced plans at the weekend to buy more than 160 European planes, mainly from Airbus, and Dion said reluctance to lift sanctions on the part of Canada's Conservative opposition had helped Airbus and not Bombardier.
The United States, the European Union and other major nations have already lifted their own punitive measures, leaving Ottawa to follow suit.
"Canada will lift its sanctions but what Canada will maintain is our suspicion of a regime ... that must not return to (trying to obtain) nuclear weapons," Dion told the House of Commons moments before meeting journalists.
Dion also said Iran had a poor human rights record and was not a friend of Canadian allies such as Israel.
Canada's foreign ministry had previously said it was reviewing the sanctions and would ensure any move to relax them did not allow Iran to trade in nuclear and ballistic missiles technologies.
(Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)