Argentina's Congress approved early on Thursday an agreement with Iran to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center that Argentine courts have long accused Tehran of sponsoring.
Jewish leaders say the pact to set up a "truth commission"
risks undermining the ongoing judicial investigation into the attack, which killed 85 people, but President Cristina Fernandez says it could shed new light on the case after years of deadlock.
The leftist president has close ties with other Latin American leaders who are on good terms with Tehran, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez,
and her supporters hailed the memorandum of understanding as an historic opportunity.
Hundreds protest outside Congress (Photo: EPA)
"This memorandum represents a bold decision, a brave decision that opens a possible path toward the truth," said ruling party lawmaker Mara Brawer during a heated 12-hour debate as Jewish community groups protested outside Congress.
Fernandez controls both houses of Congress,
meaning final ratification of the accord was expected, but opposition lawmakers questioned the government's motives, some saying commercial interests of oil and grain sales lay behind it.
The measure passed narrowly with 131 votes in favor and 113 against.
Memorial signs in Argentina (Photo: AP)
"This is the chronicle of a failure foretold," said opposition lawmaker Eduardo Amadeo, an ex-ambassador to Washington, accusing the government of putting commerce before justice and criticizing Iran's
record on human rights.
"We're going to sell out the victims for a barrel of oil."
The accord will establish a five-member commission made up of foreign legal experts and outlines plans for Argentine judicial officials to travel to Tehran
to question those people for whom Interpol has issued arrest warrants.
Iran, which remains locked in a stand-off with world powers over its disputed nuclear program, denies links to the attack.
In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol
arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese over the attack in which an explosives-laden truck detonated outside the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is among the Iranian officials sought by Argentina, which is home to Latin America's
largest Jewish community.
The Argentinean ambassador was summoned to Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem.