Argentina government says Iran bombing probe 'absurd'

Prosecutor stands by claims that Argentine president tried to hide Iran’s alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center

Argentina government says Iran bombing probe 'absurd'
World Bulletin / News Desk
 
 Accusations that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner tried to hide Iran’s alleged involvement in a deadly bombing of a Jewish center is a ploy to sully the government’s positive economic news, an official said Thursday.

The claims are “absurd,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said during a televised press conference.

He added that the accusations are aimed at “interfering in the positive agenda” of the country.

Capitanich spoke a day after Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman filed a 300-page complaint that claims Fernandez de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other officials and supporters, were involved in a plot to erase Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aries. The terror attack, the deadliest in Argentina, killed 85 people and injured more than 300.

The report suggests that the accused launched the cover-up plot in 2011 in an attempt to rebuild commercial ties with Iran in order for Argentina to begin buying crude oil from Iran in exchange for beef and grains.

Argentina and Iran went on to sign a memorandum of understanding in 2013 to create a commission to discuss any Iranian involvement in the attack and also a 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires.

Capitanich said the memorandum was drafted with the aim of “searching for the truth” of what happened, adding that the judge in the case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, was in agreement with Argentine congressional approval of the agreement.

He added that the accusations form part of an opposition-driven scheme to divert attention from “the good news in Argentina,” including record tourism in Mar del Plata, a seaside resort, as well as rising consumption and stable central bank reserves.

“The intention is to install themes that have absolutely no basis and reasonableness,” Capitanich said. “It definitely is to interfere with a positive agenda that thankfully Argentina is implementing.”

The case comes as the ruling Front for Victory party faces a presidential election in October after 12 years of rule, with polls suggesting that it will struggle to win a fourth consecutive term.

Capitanich said Nisman was probably were fed information by former secret service agents after the president replaced its leaders, Hector Icazuriaga and Francisco Larcher, in December. Fernandez de Kirchner placed in charge of intelligence Oscar Parrilli, a close confidant who had worked for years as her general secretary.

Despite the criticism, Nisman held firm to the findings of his investigation.

“Everything I say is corroborated,” the prosecutor said on Radio Mitre.

He said his investigation started after listening in on a phone call between Moshen Rabbani, a former cultural attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires who is thought to be one of the leaders of the bombing.

Rabbani, who now lives in Iran, spoke with Jorge Alejandro “Yussuf” Khalil, an Iranian who Nisman identifies as the Buenos Aires link between the Republic and the Fernandez de Kirchner government for the plan to eventually trade oil for grains.

After hearing the call, Nisman said he started collecting data, including two years of subsequent phone calls by Rabbani, Khalil and others.

“There is a lot of information, but what surprises me the most is the impunity with which it is spoken,” he said. “Impunity with which the protagonists say, ‘Nothing’s going to happen to me,’” Nisman said.

Nisman said Argentina, which has suffered energy shortages since 2004 on dwindling oil and gas production, wanted to exchange energy for beef and grains. But he said Iran demanded a quid pro quo that Argentina must hide its alleged involvement in the bombings, something that has not happened.

As the Iranian suspects are wanted for questioning by Interpol, they cannot leave their country and this has prevented any exchange of oil for grains, he said.

Nisman said the orders for the cover-up plot ultimately came from Fernandez de Kirchner, while her foreign minister as well as supporters carried out the talks.

As for the government’s criticism of his investigation, Nisman said he can’t halt the probe because of the evidence, adding that he has also accused former Argentine President Carlos Menem, and a police officer who was a friend, of cover-ups in the past.

“Now it is these people because the evidence says so,” Nisman said. “May each take responsibility for what they have done.”

 

Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2015, 14:23
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