Bolivia boots Iranian defense minister over ’94 bombing


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) – Iran’s defense minister left Bolivia following complaints from Argentina over his alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Jewish community center.

Ahmad Vahidi reportedly left Bolivia late Tuesday night under a cloud of secrecy, Reuters reported, after arriving the previous day on an official visit to attend a military ceremony led by President Evo Morales.

Argentina has accused Vahidi of planning the July 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center, which killed 85 and wounded hundreds. The Argentina Justice Department had called on Interpol to detain Vahidi, who has had an international arrest warrant issued against him since 2007.

Bolivia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday offered a "heartfelt apology" to Argentina, admitted internal misunderstandings about the invitation to Vahidi, and assured the administration of Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner that it had ordered the "immediate withdrawal" of the Iranian minister in order to “not interfere with respect to proceedings regarding the legal status of that person."

Aldo Donzis, the head of DAIA, Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella, described the Iranian’s visit to Bolivia as a "provocation." 

Vahidi arrived in Bolivia to attend a ceremony marking the 59th anniversary of the Colmilav Military Aviation School. Diplomats from Cuba and Venezuela also attended.

Asked by reporters whether there was a possibility of installing Iranian military bases in Bolivia and Venezuela, Vahidi denied that the two countries have applied to host the bases.

"We are willing to offer any kind of cooperation in this regard if we are asked," he said.

Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman has accused Iran of masterminding the AMIA attack and requested Tuesday that Vahidi be detained in Bolivia, which borders Argentina.

In September 2009, the Iranian parliament unanimously approved Vahidi’s nomination to be the country’s defense minister. Vahidi declared that his appointment was "testimony to the anti-Zionist spirit of the Iranian Parliament and Iranian people."

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