AFP: Canada hit straight back on Sunday after Iran warned its new ambassador to Tehran would get into "trouble" if he pursued the case of a murdered Iranian-Canadian photographer, which has already sparked a diplomatic crisis. The killing of Zahra Kazemi last year, after she was arrested in Iran, sent relations between Ottawa and Tehran into turmoil. AFP

OTTAWA - Canada hit straight back on Sunday after Iran warned its new ambassador to Tehran would get into "trouble" if he pursued the case of a murdered Iranian-Canadian photographer, which has already sparked a diplomatic crisis.

The killing of Zahra Kazemi last year, after she was arrested in Iran, sent relations between Ottawa and Tehran into turmoil.

But amid signs the tension was easing, Canada last week named a new envoy to Iran, to replace one recalled during the crisis, in a move which now seems only to have reignited tensions.

Iran on Sunday warned the new ambassador Gordon Venner not to raise the Kazemi case.

"If anyone enters Iran on this mission, they get themselves into trouble. This is a domestic issue of the Islamic Republic of Iran," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Hours, later however, the office of Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew hit back with a statement, which made clear Venner would not be disuaded from raising the case.

"Canada remains committed to the Kazemi case. Ambassador Venner will pursue as far as possible the avenues of redress. It is the role of a diplomat," the statement said.

"Justice has not yet been rendered and Canadians expect answers.

"We flatly reject the Iranian ministry spokesman's argument. This case is already beyond Iran's border and the international community is very preoccupied. Despite the spokesman's position, we know that the government of Iran is aware of this aspect."

Pettigrew said last week it was crucial for Canada to have top-level representation in Tehran and he warned that Canadians believed that Iran's handling of the Kazemi case was "offensive."

Kazemi, 56, died in hospital in Iran in July 2003 after sustaining a blow in custody.

Between her arrest and her admission to hospital, Kazemi was interrogated by judicial prosecutors, the police and the intelligence ministry, rival power centres in Iran, which have since blamed each other for the death.

Intelligence ministry agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, 42, was cleared of "quasi-intentional murder" in July 2004, and the judiciary said later Kazemi's death seemed to have been accidental as "the only suspect" had been found not guilty.

The case had badly damaged relations between Iran and Canada. Iran does not recognise dual nationality, and insists Canada has no say in the matter.

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