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Argentina: 10 Years of Trauma Ten Years Later, U.S. Jews Still Seek Answers on Amia Bombing

July 16, 2004
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A decade after a bombing killed 85 people at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, U.S. Jews continue to lobby Argentine and U.S. officials to pursue and prosecute those behind the attack. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for U.S. community relations councils, dedicated Wednesday to events showing solidarity with families of the victims of the July 18, 1994, bombing of the AMIA, as well as the 1992 bombing of Argentina’s Israeli Embassy, which left 29 dead.

Both attacks remain unsolved.

Jose Octavio Bordon, the Argentine ambassador to the United States, spoke to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ Solidarity Day gathering to convey “the government’s commitment to pursue investigation of the bombings of the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA with vigor,” said Martin Raffel, the council’s associate executive vice chairman.

The 20 or so council officials also met with James Derham, a top Lat! in America officer at the U.S. State Department, congressional staffers and officials from Organization of American States.

Welcoming international assistance, Bordon emphasized Argentine President Nestor Kirchner’s commitment to continue the investigation into the attacks, Raffel said. Bordon also praised American cooperation with the probe, noting that Argentina has worked with the FBI and CIA, Raffel said.

A preponderance of evidence suggests that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is tied to the AMIA bombing. The group is supported by Syria and Iran. Bordon is seeking ways to extradite suspects from Iran, Raffel said.

Bordon discussed various approaches to pressuring Iran to assist the investigation, Raffel said, including either isolating Iran or engaging it.

The first would entail encouraging other nations to sever diplomatic relations with Iran to force cooperation. The second would attempt to leverage relations to achieve cooperation.

Bordo! n didn’t advocate on behalf of either position, Raffel said.

In add ition to the reluctance of some Middle East states to participate fully in the investigation, the mishandling and loss of critical evidence under former Argentine President Carlos Menem also hindered the probe.

A former employee of Iran’s intelligence service testified in 2000 that Menem received a $10 million bribe to deflect the investigation from Iran. Swiss authorities investigated a Menem bank account in 2002 with a balance that equaled that amount.

Menem has denied the charge, and Swiss authorities recently dropped for lack of evidence a money-laundering probe related to the bribery charges.

Kirchner, who was elected president in 2003, has a far better relationship with the Jewish community than Menem and recently received an award from the American Jewish Committee for his actions on behalf of the community.

Kirchner has displayed his commitment to the investigation by unsealing the archives of Argentina’s Secretariat for State Intelligence, elevating ! the investigation to national status and declaring that no statute of limitations protects the perpetrators.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs concluded the Solidarity Day in the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who introduced a resolution condemning the AMIA bombing and encouraging vigilant prosecution of those responsible. The House leadership has set the bipartisan-backed resolution for a vote on July 19.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs enthusiastically supports the resolution, its Washington representative, Reva Price, said. “This is something we’re not going to let slide into obscurity,” she said.

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