OTTAWA - Canada supports further sanctions on Iran, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper as he pledged to use his G8 presidency to stop Tehran's "worrying" nuclear ambitions.
"Canada will continue to work with our allies to find strong and viable solutions, including sanctions, to hold Iran to account," Harper said in a statement Wednesday.
"Canada will use its G8 presidency to continue to focus international attention and action on the Iranian regime."
Harper's remarks came after the Obama administration announced it was imposing new sanctions on several affiliates of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The measures target one individual and four companies for their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. administration is pushing for additional international sanctions on Iran because of its decision to step up its uranium enrichment and its failure to prove that its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.
The U.S. is lobbying the United Nations Security Council, which has already imposed a series of sanctions on Iran.
Harper called on Iran to immediately suspend its enrichment activity, and show "transparency and compliance" by stopping construction of new enrichment sites and co-operating with inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"Canada is deeply disturbed by Iran's decision further to enrich its nuclear material in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. The regime's latest moves bring Iran considerably closer to possessing weapons-grade material," Harper said.
"Iran's past history of deliberately concealing aspects of its nuclear program makes this latest move even more worrying. Through its actions, Iran continues to test the resolve of the international community."
Harper also blasted Iran for its human-rights record, saying that Canada will "continue to voice our very serious concerns with the Iranian regime's stifling of democracy, its deplorable human-rights practices, and its negative implications for both regional and global stability."
Harper's comments came after France and Russia acknowledged that it was becoming necessary to discuss further sanctions on Iran.
The Canadian Press first reported last month that the Harper government wanted to feature nuclear non-proliferation as a major agenda item at June's summit of G8 leaders in Huntsville, Ont.
Allies are urging Canada to use the summit as an international platform to highlight the threats posed by the rogue nuclear states of Iran and North Korea, as well as terrorists acquiring the components for a so-called nuclear dirty bomb.
David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, told an audience in Montreal on Wednesday that the Obama administration was unwavering in its commitment to global security but that Washington needs the help of its allies in Canada and elsewhere to keep the world safe.
Jacobson also said the international community must hold rogue states accountable and that sanctions must be enforced.
Canada has downgraded its relations with Iran over the 2003 murder of Iranian-born Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was arrested and imprisoned in Tehran for taking photographs of a demonstration.
Kazemi was never charged with a crime, and died 17 days later in prison after being repeatedly beaten and sexually assaulted.