Argentina announced Sunday that it had reached an agreement with Iran to establish a joint commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
Nearly 19 years ago, a suicide bomber drove a van full of explosives into the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association headquarters, killing 85 people and wounding over 300.
- Argentina, Iran say to talk until 1990s bombings resolved
- Report: Argentina offered to 'forget' bombings
- Carlos Menem to stand trial over Jewish center bombing
The attack bore similar markings to that of one that took place in 1992, which leveled Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29. Like the 1992 attack, the 1994 one has never been solved.
The initial investigation into the bombing was scrapped in 2005, following accusations of corruption and incompetence by Argentine authorities, some of whom would later be charged with misconduct.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman has since taken over the investigation and accused Lebanese-based Shiite terror group Hezbollah, which is sponsored by Iran and Syria, of carrying out the attack; and senior Iranian officials of planning and financing it. Nisman declined to comment on the new agreement.
Iran has refused to carry out international arrest warrants for nine people Argentina suspects were involved in the attacks. But under the agreement, it will now permit prosecutors to interrogate suspects in Tehran. The suspects include former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Iran’s current defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi.
The accord stipulates that the two countries establish a five-member commission of international law experts. None can be of Argentine or Iranian nationality.
The deal, signed in Ethiopia, concluded several rounds of talks between Argentina’s Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi.
"Eighteen years of effort have failed to advance the case or prove anything against Iran, indicating that Iran is innocent," the Tehran-based Fars news agency reported.
Buenos Aires memorial sercive for the victims (Photo: Reuters)
Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hailed the accord as "historic."
"The attack was followed only by failures and scandals. The trial ended up a farce,” Kirchner said in a statement. "We will never allow the AMIA tragedy to be used like a chess piece in geopolitical affairs," she said, referring to the Argentine Mutual Aid Association, the center that was bombed in 1994.
Jewish groups, however, were wary of the negotiations: "Argentina is legitimizing Iran’s style of governance and getting nothing in return," Guillermo Borger, the president of the Argentine Mutual Aid Association, said.
Israeli official were reportedly "shocked" to hear that the agreement was signed.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said that Israel has "Warned the Argentineans only a short while ago not to fall into the trap that the Iranians will set up for them.
"We are stunned by this news item and we will want to receive from the Argentine government a complete picture as to what was agreed upon because this entire affair affects Israel directly.”
Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman declined to comment on the matter.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop