Israeli leaders welcomed Canada’s decision on Friday to close its embassy in Tehran and to cut its diplomatic ties with Iran.

President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on other nations to follow Ottawa’s example.

“Canada has proven once again that morals come before pragmatism, Canada has demonstrated that policy must reflect principles and values,” Peres said in a statement he issued on Saturday night.

“I thank my colleague Governor- General David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the whole nation of Canada for taking a stance based on the highest morals and hope that other nations will see Canada as a moral role model,” Peres continued.

“The diplomatic isolation of Iran is an important step for the security and stability of the entire world.”

Ottawa gave Iranian diplomats in Canada five days to leave the country, branding the Islamic Republic the “most significant threat to global peace and security.”

Ten Canadian diplomats in Iran had already left Tehran, the Canadian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The closure of Ottawa’s Tehran mission represents the most significant incident between Iran and another country since the ransacking of the British Embassy in November 2011, which British officials said could not have happened without some level of government consent.

The United States has not had a functioning embassy in Tehran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, when Iranians held 52 Americans for 444 days.

Netanyahu said that Harper’s daring decision sent a clear message to Iran and the entire world.

“One week after the display of anti-Semitism and hatred in Tehran [at the Non- Aligned Movement’s conference], the government of Canada is taking a moral step of the highest order,” Netanyahu said. “Canada’s determination is very important in order for the Iranians to understand that they cannot continue their race after nuclear weapons. This practical measure needs to serve as an example of international responsibility for the global community.

“It is important that the international community join in this pressure by setting Iran clear red lines,” he said.

Iran on Saturday accused Canada of “hostile behavior” under Israeli and British influence, and raised the prospect of swift retaliation.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the Canadian move was a “continuation of anti-Iranian policies” by Harper’s Conservative government, which has long had poor relations with Tehran.

“The current government of Canada under the leadership of Mr. Stephen Harper is known for extreme policies in the domain of foreign policy,” the Mehr news agency quoted Mehmanparast as saying. “The hostile behavior of the current racist government in Canada in reality follows the policies dictated by the Zionists [Israel] and the British.”

Mehmanparast said Ottawa’s actions were an attempt to nullify Iran’s diplomatic success in hosting the summit of Non- Aligned Movement developing countries last month, which he said Canada had tried to scuttle.

He said Canada’s anti-Iranian policies included a ban on money transfers for Iranian students studying in Canada and the blocking of bank accounts of ordinary Iranians as a result of Western sanctions imposed on Iran’s banking sector.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads Iran’s influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, said there could be an “immediate and decisive” response to Canada’s action, the Fars news agency reported.

“It is essential that the Foreign Ministry respond to this action by Canada on the basis of national interests.”

But Peres said Ottawa’s decision came after Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, support for global terrorism and threats to destroy Israel.

“It is inconceivable that a UN member state will threaten to destroy another member state, it completely contradicts the UN Charter. Other member states must stand against it,” he said.

“Iran is a source of global terror, a blatant violator of human rights, and Iran aims to dominate the entire Middle East,” Peres said.

“The combination of hegemonic ambition, political madness and a nuclear weapon is an unacceptable and unbearable combination which endangers the entire world and against which the entire world must act with all its power,” he said.

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler said his country decision to cut ties with Iran was also a reaction to Iran’s complicity with “Syria’s atrocities,” its assaults on diplomats from Central Asia to Central America and the intimidation of Canadian Iranians in Canada.”

There is a large Iranian diaspora in Canada, with more than 120,000 people reporting Iranian ethnic origins.

Cotler called for additional steps to be taken against Iran including listing its Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity under Canadian law.

There was a need for enhanced sanctions for Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of international law, he said.

Iran should also be held accountable under international law for its state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, Cotler said.

On Friday, European Union heavyweights Britain, France and Germany called on their EU partners to impose new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said diplomacy was at a standstill. “We will discuss in the next days the details of strengthening sanctions,” he told reporters.

Fabius suggested new measures could target the finance, trade and oil sectors, but provided no other details.

The latest round of EU sanctions on Iran, implemented in July, already ban oil imports from the Islamic Republic and isolate its banking sector, so it is unclear what additional measures the bloc could impose that would have a harder impact.

The ministers stopped short of listing possible targets.

EU foreign ministers were meeting in Cyprus to discuss issues including the bloc’s response to the Iranian atomic program and the crisis in Syria. But they were not scheduled to take any decisions.

The United States is applying increasing diplomatic pressure around the world to isolate the Iranian economy.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the international talks with Iran, is due to speak with Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator soon to decide whether any further steps can be taken.

Six countries that have engaged in the talks with Iran – the US, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany – will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this month to discuss the issue, diplomats say.

Talks hit an impasse in June in Moscow after Iran refused to stop enriching uranium to 20-percent fissile purity unless international sanctions were eased, a step the six nations rejected.

Talks about new sanctions in Europe could be complicated, despite strong support by the three heavyweights.

Some smaller EU states are concerned about the economic impact of sanctions on the European economy, struggling with a debt crisis.

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