Iran, Argentina to Discuss 1994 Terror Attack

Argentina's president says Iran wants to cooperate with probe into AMIA massacre.

Gil Ronen and AFP ,

Argentina's Cristina Kirchner
Argentina's Cristina Kirchner

 president announced Tuesday a meeting with Iran at its request over a 1994 terror attack in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people at a Jewish association, for which her country and Israel blame Tehran.

President Cristina Kirchner, who is at the UN General Assembly taking place this week in New York, said she had instructed her foreign minister to hold the talks with his Iranian counterpart at some point in the future at the UN.

It would be the first such meeting between the two countries over the massacre, which has soured relations between them. Argentina has charged that Iran masterminded the bombing at a building housing Jewish charities and NGOs in the Argentina capital.

Kirchner said that, as Iran has said it wants to cooperate with Argentina's probe, she expects results from the discussions.

"We expect proposals on how to move forward on this deep conflict that goes back to 1994," Kirchner told the General Assembly.

She added however that she would not act on any proposal without first consulting with victims of the attack and political parties back home.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday he hoped Iran could build relations with Argentina. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for the people of Argentina," Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York. "We would like to expand our relations," he added, blaming "the meddling of others" for creating misunderstanding between the two nations.

Argentina has South America's largest Jewish community, about 300,000.

In the attack on July 18, 1994 a van loaded with explosives exploded outside the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Aid Association, or AMIA in Spanish.

Besides the fatalities, more than 300 people were injured in the country's worst terrorist attack. The six-story building that housed the association was leveled.

In 2006, Argentina indicted and sought the extradition of eight Iranians over the massacre. They include the current defense minister and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Kirchner recalled Tuesday that Argentina has raised the possibility of holding a trial in a third country.

Argentine prosecutors allege that the attack was planned and financed in Tehran and carried out by a Hizbullah cell.

In July of last year, the Iranian foreign ministry denied those eight people were involved but said it was prepared to hold a "constructive dialogue" and "cooperate with the Argentine government to shed all light" on the attack.

The Jewish community in Argentina welcomed news of the meeting with Iran.

"It would be a glimmer of hope" if the talks lead to the Iranian suspects being brought to justice in Argentina, said AMIA president Guillermo Borger.

The terror attack at Burgas, Bulgaria, on July 18, 2012, may have been timed for the anniversary of the AMIA attack.

On the 18th anniversary of the deadly bombing, the presidents of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, and the Latin American Jewish Congress (LAJC), Jack Terpins, highlighted Iran’s suspected involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack.

“It is now almost five years [since] Interpol issued Red Notices, calling for the arrest of several Iranian suspects in the case, one of them being none other than Iran’s current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi,” Lauder said. “Tehran has so far failed to hand them over to the Argentinean judiciary. The Iranian regime has blood on its hands, not only by suppressing dissent at home but also by sponsoring terrorism world-wide.”

Terpins said: “Justice must be done if we want to avoid that such terrible acts happen again in the future."