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U.S. lawmakers call for penalizing Argentina over Iran ties

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives listed Argentina’s conciliatory approach to Iran among reasons to penalize the country economically.

In separate letters, slates of lawmakers asked Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to reconsider a decision to back Argentina’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider lower court rulings ordering Argentina to reach agreement with debtors from the country’s 1999-2002 economic crisis, when it defaulted on billions of dollars in debt.

Each letter cites Argentina’s recent improvement in relations with Iran, particularly its recent agreement with the Islamic Republic to resolve the issue of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center through a “truth commission.”

The bombing killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.

“We find it extremely troubling that Argentina would be aiding and abetting any process designed to allow Iranian senior officials to rewrite history and disavow the findings from extensive judicial investigations and indictment of senior officials for their role in the 1994 AMIA bombings,” said the July 10 letter to Kerry.

The letter to Holder focuses more on what it depicts as Argentina’s bad faith in dealing with debtors, but also notes increased trade with Iran and the AMIA commission.

Both letters, first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, are top-heavy with Republican signatories, although two Democrats also signed: Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) was one of five members to sign the letter to Kerry, which was spearheaded by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee; and Meng and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) were among 12 signatories on the July 11 letter to Holder spearheaded by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the House’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee.

Separately, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) — who both signed the letter to Holder — on July 9 introduced a non-binding resolution that would urge the Obama administration to take steps to remove Argentina from the G-20 forum of leading economies.

Like the letter to Holder, the resolution focuses principally on how Argentina has dealt with its debt, but it also cites Argentina’s recent increase in trade with Iran and the AMIA truth commission.

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