Harper: Iran time limits could be effective

Canadian PM tells 'Post' he doesn't oppose Obama's approach, but it must be conducted with eyes open.

stephen harper 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
stephen harper 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
"Time limits on negotiations with Iran could be effective," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post. "Having time lines is always an effective approach," Harper said during a media conference call arranged by The Israel Project. But he added, "It immediately raises the question: Time limits for what, and then what are the fall back actions? And these are very difficult questions." Israel has said that while it doesn't oppose the Obama administration's approach of engaging with Teheran, such conversations should not be open-ended so that Iran doesn't use the opportunity to run out the clock while gaining a nuclear capability. The US has been unwilling to publicly put any time limits on the talks as it seeks maximum flexibility in its outreach efforts. The Conservative Party's Harper said he didn't oppose Obama's approach - stepping up American involvement in talks with Iran over its nuclear program - but that it must be conducted with eyes wide open. "I'm always open to trying new approaches. But I think it is important that we not be under any illusions whatsoever about the nature of the Iranian regime, what it stands for and the nature of its activities, particularly as it involves the development of uranium enrichment and weapons capacity," he said. "I'm all for new approaches if we don't turn a blind eye to any realities." Harper also rejected the notion that the West lacks the stomach to keep Iran from going nuclear. "I think what we all are struggling with is how can we best be effective. I don't think it's a matter merely of will," he said. "I think the reality is that we're in a complex world where the United States and its allies do not have an unlimited ability to make happen what we want to have happen." Harper was speaking to reporters on the day that the UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism opened in Geneva, a conference he noted Canada was the first to boycott, followed by Israel, the US and a handful of other Western countries. "We are very concerned that around the world anti-Semitism is growing in volume and acceptance," he said of the event, which follows up on a similar 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, which he described as "scapegoat[ing] the Jewish people." "Canada will not lend its name and reputation to an international conference that promotes these kind of things," he said. The US consulted with Canada over its decision not to attend, according to Harper, who praised America for following suit. Increasing anti-Semitism was not limited to actions abroad, Harper said, expressing concern about growing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel discourse on Canadian college campuses. In such a context, Harper said he was glad to hear of the rejection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's views by Europeans and other members of the audience during his address at the conference in Geneva on Monday. "Anything that shows that there is strong opposition to that is a very positive development," he said.