Jewish leaders condemn, Argentine officials welcome Iranian offer


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Jewish leaders are doubting the sincerity of an Iranian offer to help solve the Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing, while the Argentine government has welcomed the proposal.

Following a ceremony Monday marking the 17th anniversary of the attack on the AMIA Jewish center, which killed 85 and injured hundreds, AMIA President Guillermo Borger told JTA that “The statement made by Iran just two days before the annual commemoration of the attack is strange. I think it is simply fireworks.”

Sergio Burstein, a member of the Families and Friends of the victims of the AMIA bombing group, told the crowd that the “hypocrisy” of Iran is sickening.

“We do not need the condolences of the Iranian state,” especially because they come from “a Holocaust denier [the country’s president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, who is the new Hitler,” he said.

“Turn over the eight fugitives from justice to resolve this case,” Burstein said, referring to the Iranian offer.

At the ceremony, Borger made a direct plea to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

“Ms. President, we appreciate your presence here but this is not enough, we need justice immediately,” he said.

The Argentine government has welcomed the Iranian proposal.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who attended the ceremony, later confirmed that he had received an official proposal from the Iranian Foreign Ministry titled “To cooperate with the Argentinean government in the solution of the AMIA case.” Timerman, who is Jewish, told JTA that he “will analyze deeply this offering but I think it is a step forward, I am very optimistic about it.”

The Islamic Republic announced its willingness to cooperate with Argentina’s investigation into the July 1994 bombing in a statement issued July 16 by its Foreign Ministry that condemned the attack and offered condolences to the families of those killed. It also denied responsibility for the blast.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry offered to hold “constructive dialogue” with Argentina to “shed all possible light” on the case, according to the statement carried by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Though Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, no arrests have been made in the case. Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing, including the current Iranian defense minister, Gen. Ahmed Vahidi.

In October 2010, Iran rejected Argentina’s proposal to put its accused citizens on trial in a neutral country. “The Iranian government has ensured that no Iranian citizen was involved, directly or indirectly, in the bombing of the AMIA,” read the official letter sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“If Iran really wants to collaborate it must bring to justice all the Iranians suspected instead of release declarations empty of real content,” Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman told JTA.

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