OTTAWA – A skeptical Harper government will be pressing some of Canada’s closest allies about their deal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The Canadian Press has learned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will likely discuss the Iran agreement this weekend while he and President Barack Obama are in Panama for the Summit of the Americas.
Similarly, sources say Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson will discuss the issue next week when G7 foreign ministers meet in the northern German city of Lubeck.
Nicholson has already released a statement expressing skepticism about the deal reached by six countries, including the U.S., with Iran to curb its nuclear program and prevent it from developing atomic weapons.
Israel opposes the accord because it says it will not stop Iran from clandestinely pursuing a bomb. The deal is to be finalized in June.
A senior government official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Iran would be one of the top international security issues that Harper will discuss at the summit.
It wasn’t clear yet whether Harper would have a formal bilateral meeting with Obama because the details of the prime minister’s itinerary were still being finalized before his Friday departure.
Harper’s office had no comment.
In a statement, the U.S. embassy touted its close ties to Canada.
“We routinely hold discussions which include exchanges on matters of global importance, to include Iran, ISIL, and Ukraine,” it said.
A second government official, also not authorized to speak publicly, said Nicholson planned to raise the Iran deal with his G7 counterparts and expects it to be a major topic of discussion during their meetings next week.
Nicholson will express Canada’s “gratitude” for the efforts of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — plus Germany to reach a framework agreement, the source said.
The deal calls for the eventual lifting of sanctions on Iran in exchange for international monitors being granted access to its nuclear facilities. The deal also calls for sanctions to be quickly reinstated if Iran violates any of the specifics of the deal.
Nicholson will seek clarification on the nuts and bolts of the agreement.
“It’s not like we’re completely trying to shut it down,” said one source, “but certainly we want to see the fine print — we want more details.”
Last week, Nicholson reiterated Canada’s long-held view that Iran can only be judged by its actions, stressing that all diplomatic means must be used to prevent it from getting an atomic bomb.
Canada formally severed relations with Iran in September 2012.