Israel, Argentina face crisis over alleged deal with Tehran

Buenos Aires' failure to officially address report of Argentinian willingness to stop probe into 1990s bombings irks J'lem.

Hector Timerman 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hector Timerman 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Argentina’s refusal to publicly relate to a tabloid report that it was willing to stop investigating two bombings of Jewish targets there in the 1990s in return for improved economic ties with Tehran is leading Buenos Aires and Jerusalem down the road to a full-blown diplomatic crisis.
Israeli diplomatic officials said that if Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman doesn’t address the issue, then there would be no reason for him to visit Israel as he had planned during the first week of April. That visit was scheduled long before the article appeared on Saturday in the Argentinian tabloid Perfil.
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Israel’s envoy to Buenos Aires asked the Argentinian authorities for a response to the report earlier in the week, but no response has been forthcoming.
Instead, Israel has heard through unofficial channels that Timerman said he would not dignify the report with a comment, and that he does not have to give a third country an accounting of Argentina’s relations with other countries.
Israel’s response was that since three Israeli diplomats were killed in the bombing on the Israeli Embassy in 1992 that left 29 people dead and 240 more wounded, it deserved to be kept abreast of all the developments pertaining to the 19-year investigation.
Two years after that attack, another bombing took place at the Jewish Center in Buenos Aries, killing 85 people and wounding 300.
Israel, Argentina and the US have all blamed Iran for the bombings, which were allegedly carried out by Hezbollah.
Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is one of five people wanted by Interpol for the Jewish Center bombing.
Timerman met in Damascus in January with Syrian President Bashar Assad and, according to Perfil, after that meeting the Iranian foreign minister wrote to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying that Argentina was “no longer interested in solving these two attacks, but would rather improve its economic relations with Iran.”
Israeli officials held out the possibility that Timerman would clarify the matter during an expected meeting later this week with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, currently on a four-nation visit to South America.
If that doesn’t materialize, the officials said, it would be fair to categorize the current situation between Israel and Argentina as a “diplomatic crisis.”
Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor handling the court case on behalf of the government, dismissed the Perfil report as “absolutely preposterous, absurd,” telling Prensa Judia, a local Jewish newspaper, that the investigations into the attacks continue without hindrance.