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Iran warns its citizens that Canada is a dangerous place

Iranian Canadians rally in support of Ottawa’s decision to close its embassy in Iran.

SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Tehran has officially warned its citizens and expatriates that Canada is a dangerous place in the latest swipe as both government's trade accusations.

So many Iranians live in Canada's largest city that it's often called 'Tehranto' among the moneyed elites in the Islamic Republic and thousands among the Iranian diaspora travel back and forth annually.

But with relations so seriously soured between the two governments that Canada has closed its embassy in Tehran and kicked Iranian diplomats out of Ottawa, the ruling Islamic theocracy and the conservative Harper government are now trading insults in the form of travel advisories.

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"Avoid all travel," the Harper government warned Canadians in the latest 'red' advisory.

Not to be outdone, the Iran's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday issued a stark warning about the risks for Iranians travelling to Canada.

Tehran warned – for instance – of the risks of police violence, citing clashes between students and authorities in Montreal over threatened tuition increases.

In the wake of the embassy closing, "Islamphobia and Iranphobia have not stopped in Canada, rather escalated over the past few days," reported the semi-official news agency Irna, quoting from the Foreign Ministry travel warning.

It added Iranian expatriates has been arrested and expelled and deprived of basic rights, including banking transactions – apparently a reference to financial sanctions imposed by Canada and other governments on Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

Iran warned that murder and other violent crime was on the rise in Canada, adding that the forced closing of its embassy in Ottawa meant there were no diplomats available to assist Iranian citizens.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, has been strident in denouncing the Harper government in recent weeks. At one point he said the "hostile attitude of the Canadian racist government is …. dictated by the Zionist regime and the UK."

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Meanwhile, Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird has called the Islamic Regime the greatest threat to world peace.

In the battle of the travel warnings, Ottawa struck first.

"In the context of heightened regional tensions, Iranian-Canadian dual citizens may be particularly vulnerable to investigation and harassment by Iranian authorities," Ottawa said in its travel advisory posted online. It also warned about the risk of visitors and dual nationals getting swept up in protests.

"On several occasions, demonstrations resulted in violent clashes. People near demonstrations have been assaulted, and deaths have been reported," Canada's warning said.

In Tehran, the government took a not-so-veiled slap at the "Canadian government's double-standard about human rights [which] has been the focus of the world and Canadian public opinion," it said, an apparent reference to the Harper government's staunch support of Israel.

Few Canadians, other than those who hold dual citizenship or have family ties in Iran, have visited Iran in the decades since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. So Ottawa's travel warning is aimed primarily at Iranian-Canadians.

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However, thousands of Iranians, both tourists on group tours and individual travelers have routinely visited Canada in recent years. The flow has been so significant that Ottawa used to assign additional consular officers to the Canadian embassy in Tehran to cope. That ended last spring as relations worsened and Ottawa told Iranians they would need to get visas issued in Turkey.

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International Affairs and Security Correspondent

Paul More

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