Canada sidesteps questions on 'red lines' for Iran

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird won't say where Canada stands on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for "red lines" to be drawn on Iran's nuclear program.

Foreign Minister avoids taking sides in dispute between U.S. and Israel over Iran

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird responds to a question in the House of Commons Wednesday. Baird says he'll talk about Syria and Iran when he addresses the UN Friday, but has stopped short of committing to drawing a 'red line' on Iran's nuclear program. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is refusing to take sides in a dispute between two of Canada's closest allies.

Israel and the United States are increasingly divided over how to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Washington to impose what he calls "red lines" — limits on Iran's nuclear program which, if breached, would lead to a pre-emptive military strike. Washington has refused to go along with Netanyahu's proposal, leading to a bitter feud between the Israeli leader and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Canada has positioned itself as one of Israel's most steadfast supporters. But when asked Wednesday whether the U.S. should heed Netanyahu's call to enact tougher measures against Iran, Baird refused to comment.

"We believe that every diplomatic action should be necessary and I'm not going to speculate beyond that," Baird said.

The Israeli prime minister issued an angry challenge to the White House this month.

"Those in the international community who refuse to put a red line before Iran don't have the moral right to place a red light before Israel," Netanyahu declared in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has since made the rounds on American television to press his case for tougher measures against Iran. His arguments have been seized upon by U.S. Republicans, eager to portray Barack Obama as weak on Middle East policy in the final weeks of a hard fought U.S. election campaign.

Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak before the United Nations General Assembly Thursday, has no plans to meet with Obama during his visit. He will, however, be meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Praise for Canada's stance on Iran

Netanyahu has praised Canada for cutting diplomatic ties with Iran, calling it a daring move that sends a strong message.

Canadian diplomats boycotted a speech to the UN General Assembly by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

While Harper has said Israel has a right to defend itself, he has urged Israel and Iran to settle their differences peacefully. Harper has also said, however, he has no doubt Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has accused the Iranian regime of harbouring "a fanatically religious worldview" and of having "no hesitation about using nuclear weapons."

Canada joined the United States in boycotting a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations Wednesday.

"Canada did not want to be associated in any way, shape or form with the ramblings of an anti-Semitic hate monger," Baird told reporters on Parliament Hill.

Baird will be speaking on behalf of Canada at the UN later this week. He says he plans to talk about Iran, Syria and human rights during his address.

The opposition has criticized Harper for not addressing the UN. Harper is traveling to New York Thursday to be honoured as World Statesman of the Year by the inter-faith group The Appeal of Conscience Foundation.