BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Iranian suspect in the 1994 attack on the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center denied that his country was involved and blamed Argentina for being “under the influence of Zionism.”
The accusation against Iran made by Argentina’s Justice Department “is unfounded, false and a lie,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister in Iran, said in an interview Monday in Tehran. “Argentina should not be an instrument of Zionist politics. Argentina isn’t in the position to interrogate us, they should give us an answer over their weakness before Israel and the United States.”
The AMIA bombing has come under renewed scrutiny following the mysterious death in January of investigator Alberto Nisman.
“We call on Argentina not to be an instrument of the Zionists,” Velayati, who served as the foreign minister from 1981 to 1997, when attacks on both the AMIA Jewish center and on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires occurred, told the Argentine TV news channel C5N. “Here in this region the Zionists don’t have the courage to do anything against Iran, so they provoke others” to act against Iran.
“The enmity of Zionists against Iran is very clear,” added Velayati, currently the head of Iran’s Center for Strategic Research.
Asked if he will testify as is called for in the memorandum of understanding between Argentina and Iran to jointly investigate the AMIA bombing, Velayati replied, “Argentina isn’t in a position to question officials of an independent country.”
The interviews with Velayati and Mohsen Rabbani, the former Iranian cultural attache in Argentina who also is a suspect in the bombing, were aired Monday night on a program called “MinutoUno.” C5N is a private channel run by Cristobel Lopez, a businessman close to the national government.
Argentina’s Justice Department has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, which killed 85 and injured 300. Iran also is believed to be behind the 1992 car bombing that destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242. No arrests have been made in either case.
Nisman, who first made the accusation against Iran and later alleged that Argentina’s president and other government ministers covered up Iran’s role in the bombing, was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 16, hours before he was to present his allegations to Congress. Argentine courts have dismissed Nisman’s claims against the government for lack of evidence.