Israel expressed its "overwhelming disappointment" by Argentina's decision to join forces with Iran on an independent commission meant to probe the 1994 terror attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
The attack on the headquarters of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires left 85 people dead and over 300 wounded.
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Argentina has long accused Iran of masterminding the deadly attack and has since 2006 sought the extradition of eight Iranians, including current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iran has vehemently denied any involvement in the bombing.
On Monday evening, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Argentinean Ambassador to Israel Atilio Norberto Molteni to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for what is expected to be an official reprimand.
Scene of the 1994 attack (Photo: AFP)
The Foreign Ministry also instructed Israel's Ambassador to Argentina Dorit Shavit to request an urgent meeting with Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and present him with Israel's official protest over the move and "seek clarifications."
"The agreement between Argentina and Iran has been received in Israel with astonishment and has provoked deep disappointment," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The Argentine authorities have pointed at Iran as the sponsor of the attack, and took the necessary steps with Interpol in accordance with their findings.
"Now, this recent agreement raises severe questions: It establishes a committee whose recommendations are non-mandatory, and it provides the country which all the evidence points at, namely Iran, with the capacity to delay indefinitely the committee's works," the statement said.
"It is doubtful whether this is how justice will be rendered."
Sunday saw Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner call the agreement "historic." She confirmed that Buenos Aires and Tehran have agreed to create a "truth commission" with five independent judges, none of whom can come from either Iran or Argentina.
Argentinean FM Timerman (R) and Iranian FM Salehi signing the probe MOU (Photo: AFP)
The decision has drawn criticism from Argentina's Jewish community as well. Numbering at 300,000-strong, it is considered the largest in Latin America.
Local community leaders said Monday that they were "vehemently opposed" to the agreement between Argentina and Iran, saying that "referring the case to a commission of this type was a denigration of the Argentinean justice system, which the community trusts to get to the bottom of the case."
Argentina's two largest Jewish organizations - AMIA and the Delegation of Israelite Argentine Associations (DAIA) – issued a joint statement saying: "The creation of the commission would imply a decline in our sovereignty.
"To ignore everything that the Argentine justice has done and to replace it with a commission that, in the best of cases, will issue, without any defined deadline, a 'recommendation' to the parties constitutes, without doubt, a reversal in the common objective of obtaining justice."
AFP and Beatrice Overlander contributed to this report
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