OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has held talks with representatives of the six Western countries trying to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff with Iran.
Baird expressed Canada's concern that Iran might use the talks as a stalling tactic, but expressed hope for a peaceful solution to the continuing problem.
"He has been clear that Iran should not be rewarded for merely showing up, and that they should not be allowed to use these talks as a delay tactic," said Baird's spokesman Rick Roth.
Baird delivered that message to ambassadors and senior diplomats for the six front-line negotiating countries during a 30-minute meeting on Parliament Hill on Wednesday.
Iran says it is developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but Western countries, including Canada, believe it wants to build a nuclear weapon.
The six-country group includes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — as well as Germany, are to meet with Iran in Moscow in the coming week.
Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have recently taken to stressing the need for a diplomatic solution to the Iran situation, toning down some previously hawkish rhetoric.
During a visit to Ottawa by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March, Baird and Harper made clear their deep friendship with the Jewish state does not extend to supporting a pre-emptive strike on Iran targeting its nuclear program.
Though Canada is on the sidelines of the Iran nuclear issue, Baird gets regular updates from the European Union's foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton, senior officials say.
Ashton has kept Baird updated on developments in past talks that were held in Istanbul and Baghdad, officials say.
UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon expressed hope Thursday that the coming round of talks would lead to an agreement with Iran.
Ban's spokesman told reporters he wants to see progress toward a settlement "that restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."
Iran is coming to bargaining table this time keen for the world to recognize its right to enrich uranium. It is also eager for the lifting of sanctions imposed by Western countries, including Canada.
The West is wary that Iran's 20-per-cent level of uranium enchrichment could easily be lead to weapons-grade quality of 90 per cent.