Argentinian FM refuses to address 'bomb probe' report

"According to the Torah, the victim does not have to prove his innocence," Timerman responds to report of deal with Iran to stop terror investigation.

April 4, 2011 14:04
3 minute read.
Argentinian FM Hector Timerman

Hector Timerman 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman agitatedly danced around a report his country had offered to drop probes into the bombing of Jewish targets in exchange for improving financial ties with Iran, telling a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday that he did not have to answer questions not based in reality.

Referring to his father Jacobo Timerman, who was imprisoned and tortured in Argentina in the late 1970s, the foreign minister said that just as his father refused to answer questions in prison about when Israel would invade Patagonia, so too there was no need for him to answer the allegation that appeared last week in the Argentinean press.

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Timerman made his remarks at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Last week, the Argentinean paper Perfil reported that Argentina was willing to stop investigating the bombings of Jewish targets there in the 1990s in return for improved economic ties with Iran.

“According to the Torah,” said Timerman, who is Jewish, “the person who accuses has to bring evidence. It is not the victim who has to prove his innocence. I will not answer the question.”

He then, however, said that the story itself made no sense, because it was based on a cable from the Iranian intelligence services claiming that he said at a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus that Argentina would be willing to drop the probe in exchange for stronger economic ties.

“If I am asking the president of Syria to do a favor to Iran, why does the Iranian intelligence service need to be the one to find out?” he said.

Furthermore, Timerman said, Argentina did not need to improve economic ties with Iran since “there is no problem of trade with Iran. What kind of economic benefit am I going to get?

“So you see why I refuse to answer? Because it is the invasion of Patagonia; there is no need.”

Shortly after the report appeared some 10 days ago, Israel’s ambassador asked the Argentinean Foreign Ministry for clarifications, but did not receive any official response. Instead, Israel heard through unofficial channels that Timerman said he would not dignify the report with a comment, and that he did not have to give a third country an accounting of Argentina’s relations with other countries.

Timerman’s comments Monday were his first public remarks on the matter.

Argentina, he said, has – and will continue – to do everything to find those responsible for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center building in Buenos Aires, that together left 114 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

“We are the only country in the world who has brought evidence against several [members] of the Iranian government. We presented that evidence to Interpol, and Interpol was satisfied enough to issue red cards and order the arrests,” he said, referring to warrants issued against high-level Iranians, including current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi.

“We don’t talk about international terrorism, we act.”

Timerman said Argentina, which has been probing the bombings now for almost 20 years, “acts against international terrorism within international law, and respect for human rights. We don’t seek revenge, we seek justice.

“When you seek justice,” he said, “the thing you can do is investigate and bring charges. This is not about words, but about deeds.

“We have suffered from international terrorism in Argentina, and we have suffered from state terrorism,” he said. “We never, never forget about the victims.

“The behavior of Argentina is not something that can be challenged seriously, because we have done more than any other country in the world. We don’t need to bomb a country in order to show we are against international terrorism. We will never violate international law,” he said.

Timerman, when asked, said Lieberman did not ask for a clarification about the matter.

This is Timerman’s first visit to Israel since becoming foreign minister last June. He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Timerman’s father was a Jewish journalist and publisher imprisoned and tortured during Argentina’s Dirty War from 1976-1983. After his release from prison in 1979, Timerman was exiled and immigrated to Israel, where he became a caustic left-wing critic of the government’s policies. He returned to Argentina in 1984.

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