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Argentina seeks to deflect criticism during Clinton visit

BUENOS AIRES, Oct. 15 (JTA) — Appearances seem to be everything for the Argentine government. Argentine President Carlos Menem was so concerned that his administration would be criticized for its inability to find those responsible for two terror bombings of Jewish targets earlier in the decade that he called Jewish leaders to the presidential palace Tuesday to seek from them assurances that they would not bring up the issue during a meeting with President Clinton. Although details of the meeting with Menem were not disclosed, Jewish communal sources said they had acquiesced to Menem’s request. “We will not show ourselves to be bad Argentines, criticizing our country before Clinton,” a source said. Menem had wanted to prevent his government from being embarrassed over its continued inability to solve the March 17, 1992, bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA. The attacks in Buenos Aires killed 115 people and left hundreds of wounded. Instead of lashing out at their government, Argentine Jewish representatives said they planned to ask Clinton for information they believe is held by the FBI and CIA, but was never disclosed to Argentine investigators. Their meeting with Menem took place two days before their scheduled meeting with Clinton, who is visiting Argentina as part of his trip this week to several South American countries. In the past, Jewish leaders here and abroad have cited incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials as causes for Argentina’s inability to solve either case.