Iran TerrorismINTERVIEW-Argentine prosecutor in bomb probe presses Iran

INTERVIEW-Argentine prosecutor in bomb probe presses Iran

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Reuters: The Argentine prosecutor seeking the arrests of former Iranian officials in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center said on Wednesday that Tehran’s reaction so far had been “aggressive” and marked by “insults.” By Kevin Gray

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Nov 15 (Reuters) – The Argentine prosecutor seeking the arrests of former Iranian officials in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center said on Wednesday that Tehran’s reaction so far had been “aggressive” and marked by “insults.”

Last week, a judge in the South American country ordered arrest warrants for former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight others in connection with the July 18, 1994, blast that killed 85 people when an explosives-laden truck detonated outside the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building.

Argentine prosecutors accuse Iran of masterminding the bombing.

Tehran has repeatedly denied any involvement and has dismissed the warrants as part of a “Zionist-American conspiracy” and “propaganda” against Iran’s government.

Iran’s charge d’affaires in Argentina has said Iranian officials would urge Interpol not to act on the warrants.

In an interview with Reuters, prosecutor Alberto Nisman called on Iranian authorities to cooperate with his probe.

“If they’re as innocent as they say they are, they should come and clear their names,” he said. “Until now, I’ve only heard insults. They’ve responded with aggressive behavior. No one has said, ‘Listen, I want to respond to these charges.'”

No one has been convicted of carrying out the AMIA attack despite a lengthy investigation punctuated by judicial misconduct and charges of a government cover-up. Argentine, Israeli and U.S. officials have long blamed the bombing on Hezbollah guerrillas backed by Iran.

Rafsanjani was president at the time of the bombing and several of his top aides, including former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian as well as a former Hezbollah security chief are being sought by Argentine officials.

In April, Switzerland issued an international warrant for Fallahian as part of a probe into the 1990 killing of an Iranian dissident.

HEZBOLLAH ACCUSED

Nisman said evidence gathered by Argentine authorities and used as a basis for the warrants indicated the bombing plot was hatched by top Iranian officials, including Rafsanjani, during a Aug. 14, 1993, meeting in the holy city of Mashhad.

He said the bombing had support from officials in Iran’s embassy in Buenos Aires and was carried out by Hezbollah, citing testimony from former Iranian government officials and Iranian dissidents he did not identify.

Much of the investigation is also based on phone call traces and banking and immigration records, Nisman said.

“The motive was Argentina’s decision to suspend and later stop providing Iran with nuclear technology,” he said.

Under pressure from the U.S. government, Argentina cut off its supply of nuclear materials to Iran in 1990.

The AMIA investigation has drawn the attention of the White House, which on Saturday urged governments to aid Argentina in its bid to have the Iranian officials detained.

Most analysts and legal experts agreed it was highly unlikely Iran would respond to the Argentine requests.

Asked if Iranian refusal to cooperate would signal the end of his probe, Nisman said, “If they don’t turn themselves in, we’ll look at other options.

“We’re not going to ease up until these people cooperate with what Argentina is requesting,” he said.

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