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Meeting with Clinton, relatives of Argentine victims press case

BUENOS AIRES, Oct. 19 (JTA) — Argentina’s investigations into two terror bombings that targeted Jewish sites earlier in the decade were criticized during a meeting here between local Jewish representatives and President Clinton. The Oct. 16 meeting, which brought representatives from all major Argentine Jewish organizations together with Clinton for more than an hour, focused almost exclusively on the two bombings. The Jewish leaders told Clinton, who was joined by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and 10 other American officials, of the need to battle terrorism. They did not criticize the Argentine government’s inability to find those responsible for the bombings. But five relatives of the bombing victims who were present at the meeting gave Clinton a five-page letter saying, “The very poor performance of the Argentine judiciary and security agencies is an invitation to terrorism to strike again.” Last week, before the Jewish leaders spoke with Clinton, Argentine President Carlos Menem met with them and asked them not to criticize the government when they spoke with the American president during his visit to Latin America. Menem apparently was seeking to avoid embarrassment over his government’s 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. Jewish leaders here and abroad have cited incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials as causes of Argentina’s inability to solve either case. The Jewish community officials, who acceded to Menem’s request, asked Clinton for information about the attacks they believe is being held by the FBI and CIA, but was never disclosed to Argentine investigators. But the victims’ relatives, who were apparently not bound by any promises to Menem, presented Clinton with the letter. Jewish leaders, who later described the meeting as “highly positive,” said Clinton and Albright had been very sensitive to their concerns and had vowed to press on with the fight against terror.

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