Israeli ex-envoy to Argentina: We killed most AMIA bombers


Israel has killed most of the people responsible for the 1994 bombing at a Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, a former Israeli ambassador to Argentina said.

“The vast majority of the guilty parties are in another world, and this is something we did,” Yitzhak Aviran said in an interview published Thursday by the Jewish News Agency, or AJN, a Spanish-language service. He did not specify their identities or how they were killed.

Eighty-five people died in the suicide bombing at the multistory Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina building, and hundreds more were wounded.

Aviran, who served as ambassador until 2000, arrived in Buenos Aires in 1993, the year before the attack and a year after a car bomb in front of the Israeli embassy in the city killed 29 people and wounded 200 others.

In the interview, Aviran criticized the Argentinean government’s decision last year to jointly investigate the bombing together with the Iranian government. Israeli, American and some Argentinean intelligence officials believe Iran’s leadership was complicit in planning the attacks.

“We still need an answer [from the Argentine government] on what happened,” he said. “We know who the perpetrators of the embassy bombing were, and they did it a second time.”

Judge asked to invalidate Iran-Argentine probe of 1994 bombing


An Argentine prosecutor has asked a judge to declare as unconstitutional an agreement between Argentina and Iran to jointly investigate the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center that local courts blamed on Tehran.

Alberto Nisman, who oversaw an investigation of the AMIA center explosion that killed 85 people, presented the appeal to a federal judge on Wednesday, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Israel and world Jewish groups denounced the agreement under which Argentina and Iran formed a “truth commission” in January, saying it was a diplomatic win for Tehran, while offering no benefit to Argentina.

The agreement outlines plans for five Argentine officials who are not residents of Argentina or Iran to interview suspects in Iran. Nisman's appeal said the probe could result in sanctions for Argentina from international human rights bodies.

The commission violates rights protected by Argentina's constitution including judicial independence, the guarantee of due process, the right to effective judicial protection and the right to justice for victims, his motion said.

The bombing came two years after a group linked to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in the Argentine capital, which killed 29. Tehran has denied links to either attack.

In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center.

Led by the United States, the West has imposed sanctions on Iran – including targeting its key oil revenues – to force it into a diplomatic solution over its nuclear program, which Western nations believe is aimed at developing a nuclear bomb.

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez is allied with left-leaning leaders who have been on good terms with Tehran, such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Reporting by Guido Nejamkis; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Paul Simao

Two AMIA bombing suspects running for Iranian president


Two suspects in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires are candidates in Iran’s presidential election.

Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati, who are believed to have planned the 1994 attack, were among the eight candidates approved Tuesday for the June 14 election by Iran’s Guardian Council to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian constitution bars Ahmadinejad from seeking re-election.

Rezai is under an international arrest warrant, or red notice, from the Interpol international police agency.

Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, which killed 85 and injured 300, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out. No arrests have been made in the case.

Six Iranians have been on Interpol ’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing, including the current defense minister, Gen. Ahmed Vahidi.

Meanwhile, the Argentinian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in a statement that Argentina has received “no formal notification” about Iran’s official approval of an agreement for the two countries to jointly probe the AMIA attack.

Iran’s business commissioner to Buenos Aires, Ali Pakdaman, had said a day earlier that Ahmadinejad officially approved the agreement to create a Truth Commission investigating the bombing.

The statement issued by the office headed by Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said that only when the formal notification is received by the foreign ministries of Argentina and Iran will “the deal be put into operation.”

Iran also is believed to be behind the 1992 car bombing that destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242.

Argentina’s Timerman slams Israel criticism of Iran pact


Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman hit back at Israeli criticism of a joint commission with Iran on the AMIA bombing on his first day of testimony to his country's Congress.

Both houses of the Congress must approve the “truth commission” before it is made active, and Jewish groups were present at the Senate session Wednesday to make clear their opposition.

Timerman argued that the commission was the best avenue to get at the truth of the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires JCC, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Dealing with Iran was not “pleasant,” he said in his testimony, “but our goal is advancing the AMIA case. We want to know the truth about the attack.”

Iran until now has resisted any cooperation with Argentina or international authorities in the bombing.

Timerman, who is Jewish, quoted Deuteronomy: “Justice, justice shall thou pursue.”

He was especially scornful of some Israeli criticism of the proposed pact.

“Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told me that we cannot sign agreement with Iran,” he said. “So maybe he wants that we kidnap the suspects or put a bomb below the car of one of them.”

Also testifying was Julio Schlosser, the president of DAIA, a Jewish umbrella group, who likened the pact to dealing with Holocaust deniers.

“We reject the memorandum because our counterpart is not dependable,” he said.

Iran rejects questioning of defense minister under Argentina agreement


Iran denied that its defense minister will be questioned by an Argentinian judge about his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.

Ahmed Vahidi, who is under an international arrest warrant by Interpol in connection with the deadly bombing of the AMIA center, would be questioned under the framework of the recent truth commission agreement signed by Argentina and Iran, according to Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman.

“The matter of questioning of some of the Iranian officials is a sheer lie,”  Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “It seems that those who are concerned by the actual agreement are spreading such reports.”

Timerman, who is Jewish, had said that seven Iranians with international arrest warrants against them would be interrogated under the agreement.

“I can assure that he will have to be present when the judge questions them, and he will be,” Timerman said on Jan. 29 during his meeting with relatives of the victims of the AMIA bombing when he was asked specifically about Vahidi.

The bombing, for which no one has been prosecuted, killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Argentinian congressman and leaders from political parties are set to meet Thursday outside the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires to protest the agreement with Iran.

Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a member of the Buenos Aires municipal legislature, recommended the venue for the protest and debate. He noted that Iranian leaders deny the Holocaust.

Report of Argentina-Iran deal to quash AMIA investigation roils community


Consternation is mounting in Argentina and Israel after the leaking of a document purportedly showing that Argentina’s foreign minister secretly offered Iran a deal to quash the investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in exchange for better trade relations.

The Argentinean newspaper Perfil broke the story with a report based on what it said was an Iranian document showing that the foreign minister, Hector Timerman, made the offer to Iran via Syrian intermediaries. According to the paper, opponents of the regime in Tehran leaked the documents.

Until now, Argentina has been one of the most vociferous critics of Iran in all of Latin America, having experienced two deadly terrorist attacks in the 1990s believed to be the work of Iran: the 1994 bombing, which killed 85, and the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992, which left 29 dead. At last year’s annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of heads of state, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called on Iran to surrender the Iranian officials wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing.

What makes the Timerman story all the more bizarre is that Timerman is Jewish, and that he has refused to respond to the allegations; his office says Timerman won’t dignify the report with a comment.

In the meantime, Timerman’s silence threatens to derail his planned trip to Israel next week, and possibly to harm relations between Argentina and Israel.

“We are awaiting an official response to Argentina’s Foreign Ministry,” a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, told the La Nacion newspaper. “If confirmed, the report would constitute a grave and infinite manifestation of cynicism and dishonor to the dead.”

According to the Perfil newspaper report, written by veteran journalist Pepe Eliaschev, Timerman made his proposal to drop the investigations of the 1992 and 1994 bombings in meetings on January 23 and 24 with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem and President Bashar Assad in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Under the proposed agreement, Argentina would not seek to bring to justice Iran’s current defense minister, Ahmed Vahidi, who is the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant by Interpol in connection with the 1994 attack. The perpetrators of the attack were never brought to justice, though an investigation into the attack is still ongoing in Argentina. In exchange for looking the other way, Perfil reported, Argentina’s trade with Iran—currently estimated at $1.2 billion a year – would rise significantly.

The report comes at a particularly inauspicious time. Aside from Timerman’s upcoming trip to Israel, he was slated to meet with the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, on Wednesday in Buenos Aires. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Iran’s most stalwart friend in Latin America, is also in Argentina this week to sign new trade agreements with Argentina’s president.

The report has touched on raw nerves in the Argentinean Jewish community regarding the still-unresolved attack and prompted heated debate over whether or not it is true.

Sergio Widder, the Latin American representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, urged the Argentine government to establish a special investigation unit for the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing, just as it has done for the AMIA attack.

However, AMIA’s current president, Guillermo Borger, is defending Timerman.

“I talked yesterday with the Foreign Minister Timerman, and he assured me that this information is not true—and more than that, he told me that it is so ridiculous that he can’t reply to this accusation,” Borger told JTA in a telephone interview from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he had gone to attend the annual conference of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

Claudio Avruj, former executive director of the political umbrella organization of Argentine Jewry, the DAIA, asked why AMIA’s president was rebutting the Perfil article rather than Timerman himself.

Alberto Nissman, the chief prosecutor in the AMIA bombing case, expressed incredulity about the Perfil article.

“I can’t trust in this internal document of Iran, and it is incredible that Perfil published it,” he said. “Even if there is an agreement, nobody will stop me” from bringing the perpetrators to justice. Nissman promised that this year would show more progress in his investigation than the last three years combined, with more evidence of the involvement of Iranian officials in the 1994 attack.