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Zarif’s visit stirs Argentina anger

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends press conference on the announcement of an agreement on Iran nuclear talks on April 2, 2015 at the The Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne. European powers and Iran's foreign minister said that marathon talks had reached a deal on curtailing Iran's nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends press conference on the announcement of an agreement on Iran nuclear talks on April 2, 2015 at the The Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne. European powers and Iran's foreign minister said that marathon talks had reached a deal on curtailing Iran's nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

    v Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Uruguay and Brazil this week has stirred controversy in neighbouring Argentina, where Iran is alleged to have planned two fatal bomb attacks.

    Leaders of Daia, the umbrella group for Argentine Jews, said the visits should not have taken place given Iran’s involvement in the attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in the 1990s.

    Daia president Ariel Cohen Sabban said he opposed Mr Zarif’s visit as the representative of “a country which seeks the destruction of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

    “We realise that we cannot prevent one country doing business with another,” added Nina Ben Ami, the Israeli Ambassador to Uruguay. “Nevertheless, we remain alarmed by a country which was responsible for the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and which declares in the United Nations that Israel must disappear.”

    Iran is accused of masterminding the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy, which killed 29 people, and the bombing of the Amia Jewish centre two years in which 85 people lost their lives.

    In a letter to Uruguay’s president, Tabaré Vázquez, Shimon Samuels and Ariel Gelblung from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said the decision to grant Mr Zarif a state visit “merely encourages Tehran to support terror and Holocaust denial in the Americas”.

    The letter continued: “Uruguay is betraying its membership of the Organisation of American States by receiving a high-ranking official of a state implicated in the financing, planning and carrying out the terrorist attacks … Iran is still harbouring those accused of the attacks, in complete contempt for Interpol’s arrest warrants, and refuses to co-operate with the Argentinian judicial investigation.”

    Mr Zarif’s tour this week, which included visits to Senegal and Namibia, was billed as an attempt to boost diplomatic and trade ties with parts of South America and Africa.

    Relations between Iran and Argentina have been tense since the 1994 Amia centre bombing, the worst terror attack in Argentina’s history, which remains controversial because of the fate of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the attack on its tenth anniversary.

    In 2006 Nisman accused the Iranian government of having planned the bombing and the Hezbollah terrorist group of having carried it out.

    In early January 2015, he accused the then president Cristina Kirchner and her foreign minister Héctor Timerman of covering up for the Iranian suspects in the case.

    Six days later, just hours before he was due to present his findings in front of the Argentine Congress, he was found dead with a handgun near his body and a bullet in his head.

    A subsequent private investigation found that he had been murdered, rather than committing suicide as had initially been suggested by President Kirchner.

    An official investigation by the Argentine judiciary came to the same conclusion last year.