BUENOS AIRES (Aug. 10)
Argentine President Carlos Menem this week called for the expulsion of Iran’s ambassador to Argentina after a judge issued arrest warrants for four Iranian diplomats wanted in connection with the July 18 bombing of the Jewish communal headquarters here.
But Menem, speaking to a radio interviewer Wednesday, said the final decision regarding the expulsion should rest with the Foreign Ministry.
Menem made the statement after federal Judge Juan Jose Galeano decided Tuesday to issue warrants for the four diplomats, whose current whereabouts are unknown.
Galeano has been spearheading the investigation into the bombing that killed 99 people and left more than 200 wounded.
The four Iranians were identified as Ahmad Allameh Falsafi, Mahvash Monsef Gholamreza, Akbar Parvaresh and Abbas Zarrabi Khorrasani, all of whom reportedly worked at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Galeano issued the warrants based on the testimony of an Iranian refugee, Monousheh Moatamer, who is currently in Caracas, Venezuela, under the protection of the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.
Moatamer has been variously described as a former secretary in Iran’s Ministry of Culture and as a high official in the Iranian secret service, before fleeing Teheran a month ago.
Galeano’s findings were criticized as lacking concrete evidence by Ruben Beraja, president of the DAIA, the Jewish communal umbrella organization whose offices were among those destroyed in the bomb blast.
The judge’s finding “ratifies Iran’s participation, but has no solid elements (of evidence),” Beraja said Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministry’s second-in-command, Fernando Petrella, said Wednesday that the Supreme Court would have to determine whether Galeano had a sufficiently strong case to warrant an international manhunt for the four missing diplomats.
IRAN AND HEZBOLLAH: ‘ONE ENTITY’
Israeli and American officials have blamed the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement for the bombing.
Another Lebanon-based group, known as the Supporters of God, has taken responsibility for the terrorist attack. Little is known about the group, but it is believed to be closely associated with Hezbollah.
Earlier in the week, Argentine officials spoke of the possibility of cutting off relations with Iran, but the threat was later withdrawn out of fear of reprisals.
Summoning the Argentine charge d’affairs in Teheran, Iranian officials on Wednesday strongly protested the issuance of the warrants. Argentina withdrew its ambassador to Iran shortly after the July 18 blast.
According to Iran’s official news agency, the four wanted in Argentina are currently in Iran. Three of them, the agency stated, had not served at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires for years, and the fourth was in Argentina on an official visit in December but had not returned since.
In Washington on Wednesday, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Iranian National Council of Resistance — which is seeking to overthrow the current government in Iran and replace it with a secular, democratic government — said the bombing had been planned and carried out by the Iranian government and Hezbollah.
He described the government and the terrorist group as being, in effect, “one entity.”
Mohaddessin, speaking to reporters at the National Press Club, charged that the attack was planned in Teheran by the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, as well as by the Intelligence Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.
He also said the attack was approved by the regime’s Supreme National Security Council, which is chaired by Iran’s President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Mohaddessin said the Iranian Embassy and envoy in Buenos Aires had also been “deeply involved” in the attack. “The regime’s embassy in Argentina and Foreign Ministry played a role in solving the logistical problems like providing explosives and transportation of the terrorists involved in this explosion,” Mohaddessin said.
He added that involvement of Iranian diplomats in terrorist activities is widespread.
When asked what proof he has linking Iran to the bombing, Mohaddessin said he has no evidence such as “paper or videotape” because there is no “paper trail” for such terrorist acts.
He claimed that sources within the Revolutionary Guard had provided the Iranian National Council of Resistance with the information.
(JTA staff intern Michael Shapiro in Washington contributed to this report.)