Fury over secret Argentina and Iran meetings

By Adam Feinstein, October 4, 2012
The aftermath of the 1994 bombing of the Amia community centre, which Iran has always denied plotting

The aftermath of the 1994 bombing of the Amia community centre, which Iran has always denied plotting

Argentinian Jewish leaders have condemned secret negotiations between the governments of Iran and Argentina that took place last week to discuss the bombing of the headquarters of Amia (Argentine Jewish Mutual Association) community centre in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994. The blast left 85 people dead and hundreds injured.

Two years earlier, in 1992, an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people and wounded 200. The Argentinian judiciary issued an international warrant in 2006 for the arrest of seven Iranians and one Lebanese citizen, but Iran has consistently denied any involvement in either attack.

Representatives from Amia and Daia (Delegation of Argentinian Jewish Associations), as well as relatives of the victims of the 1994 bombing, were due to meet this week to draw up the joint declaration denouncing the talks which opened between the Argentinian Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, in New York on September 27.

The signatories were expected to agree that “there can be no valid dialogue between Argentina and Iran until justice has been done in the Amia cause”. The talks, they said, were “suspicious” and concealed other interests such as bilateral trade relations.

Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, said she hoped that the talks with the Iranians would offer up “concrete results” on the Amia bombing.

Dialogue plan: Kirchner

Dialogue plan: Kirchner

The president of Daia, Aldo Donzis, said he doubted that Tehran would collaborate over the Amia probe.

Sofía Guterman, whose daughter Andrea was killed in the Amia attack, told the Argentinian daily, La Nación: “We have to draw attention to the fact that Iran’s strategy seems to be to delay the probe … and that there are certain people who do not represent us.”

This last allusion was a reference to Sergio Burstein, the co-leader of the Group of Relatives and Friends of the Victims of the Amia Attack, who agrees with the call for justice but is in favour of dialogue.

According to the Argentinian Foreign Ministry, the two countries had agreed to continue the bilateral discussions at the UN’s Geneva HQ later this month “with the aim of exploring legal mechanisms which are not in conflict with the legal systems of Argentina and Iran”. This process would continue “until a mutually acceptable solution was reached… on all the issues surrounding the Amia case”.

In the US Congress, the new talks between Buenos Aires and Tehran was described as “worrying” and seen as political rather than aimed at resolving the issue of the Amia bombing.

Mr Donzis said: “We have always been opposed to dialogue with Iran while it is unwilling to hand over the accused. But hearing the Iranian president’s proposal at the UN to set up a working group to investigate the [Amia] attack, we believe Argentina should take this as an insult. Argentinian justice has already shown, with irrefutable evidence, that several Iranian officials were involved.”

Last updated: 6:44pm, October 4 2012