Tehran: Iran on Monday said Canada had a “neo-conservative extremist government” as it kept up a furious response to Ottawa’s decision last week to cut diplomatic ties.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi used that description in an interview with the Iranian parliament’s website (icana.ir) in which he also said the Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was “boundlessly defending international Zionism”.

Canada last Friday made the surprise announcement that it had shut its Tehran embassy and was ordering the Iranian embassy in Ottawa closed by the middle of this week.

It said it took the step because it views Iran “as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today”, citing Tehran’s support of the Syrian regime, defiance over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, anti-Israeli rhetoric, human rights violations, and alleged state sponsorship of terrorism.

It also highlighted the insecurity its diplomats feel in Tehran after the British embassy was overrun by protesters during a state-organised demonstration in November last year, resulting in its closure.

Salehi said that Iran viewed Canada’s decision as “irrational and unjustified”.

He said Iran’s nuclear programme “is not a new issue” and added that, when it came to Syria, Western countries “help extremist groups massacre Syrians”.

He also rounded on Canada for mentioning Iran’s human rights record, saying that “by cutting ties it is putting limitations on 400,000 Iranians residing in Canada — is this in line with observing human rights?”

Iran has threatened to take “adequate” retaliation over Canada’s decision.

That began with Iran’s parliament confirming in a statement that its speaker, Ali Larijani, had cancelled an October trip to Canada’s city of Quebec to attend an inter-parliamentary conference.