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New Argentinian government in major shift on Iran and Amia terror

Buenos Aires

    Germán Garavano, Argentina’s justice minister
    Germán Garavano, Argentina’s justice minister

    Argentina’s new government was set this week to quash a pact with Iran under which the countries had agreed to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires.

    Upending what had been a pillar of the country’s foreign policy, Germán Garavano, Argentina’s justice minister, said in an interview that the ministry would nullify an appeal, lodged by the administration of former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, against a court’s decision declaring the pact unconstitutional.

    Mr Garavano said last week that lawyers for the ministry would present a document to cease the appeal on Monday, December 14.

    The pact, or memorandum of understanding, was signed in Ethiopia in January 2013 by Argentina’s former foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, who is Jewish, and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi.

    It proposed a joint truth commission to help solve the 1994 bombing, which killed 85 people in one of the worst antisemitic attacks since the Second World War.

    The new government, which was sworn into office on December 10, led by President Mauricio Macri, is moving to reposition Argentina on the global stage.

    During his campaign, Mr Macri promised to revoke the pact with Iran, as well as shifting the country away from socialist Venezuela, an ally under Ms Fernández, and reviewing the details of deals she signed with China and Russia.

    “We analysed the case following a political decision by the president to repeal the memorandum,” Mr Garavano said.
    Ceasing the appeal should signal the death of the pact, experts say.

    Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who led the investigation before he was shot dead in mysterious circumstances earlier this year, claimed the pact was a veneer for a secret deal, orchestrated by Ms Fernández, to absolve former Iranian officials he accused of masterminding the attack in exchange for trade benefits. His accusations died in Argentina’s courts.

    Controversially, the pact included a provision for Argentine prosecutors to interrogate the Iranians in Tehran. They had refused to be questioned in Buenos Aires, which had stalled the probe.

    Ms Fernández’s administration said the provision was the only way of moving forward with the unresolved case. But Jewish leaders, many victims’ families and the political opposition to Ms Fernández were concerned it would result only in the impunity of the suspects.

    Ralph Thomas Saieg, vice-president of Amia, the bombed Jewish centre, said the news was “comforting… The memorandum was never the legal instrument to reach the truth.”

    “We applaud the Argentinian government’s new direction on this important matter,” said Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, in a statement.

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