U.S.: Iran defense pick a ‘step back’


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Iran’s appointment of a defense minister wanted in an Argentina JCC bombing  is a "step back" from engagement with the United States, a State Department official said.

Iran’s parliament last week confirmed Ahmad Vahidi, one of five Iranians on an arrest warrant issued by Argentina through Interpol who are wanted for their alleged involvement in the 1994 attack on the AMIA center in Buenos Aires. The bombing killed 85 and wounded hundreds.

In remarks Sept. 3, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley cast the appointment in terms of the U.S. offer to engage with Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program as a means of avoiding punitive sanctions.

"We find today’s action disturbing, and we think that for Iran, it is sending precisely the wrong message," Crowley said. "And we certainly support Argentina’s efforts to bring justice to the perpetrators of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, and we will continue to support that, but — so unfortunately, rather than taking a step forward to engage the United States and the international community, Iran today is taking a step backward by putting into a high office a well-known individual suspected of participation in a terrorist act."

On Sunday, Iranian government spokesmen dismissed the Argentine allegations as a "Zionist plot" and said Crowley’s comments showed the United States lacked respect for democratic procedures.

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