By MICHAEL WARREN
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina
Israel expressed deep concern Friday about Argentina’s efforts to work with Iran to solve the South American country’s worst terrorist attack.
Prosecutors believe Iranians bombed a Buenos Aires Jewish center in 1994, killing 84 people. But 18 years of effort have failed to advance the case, and Iran says it’s innocent. In the highest-level talks since the bombing, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi agreed at the United Nations on Thursday to work together to satisfy both countries’ legal systems.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad initiated the meeting, saying at the U.N. that he hoped it would lead to normalized relations with Argentina.
After the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires warned Friday that Iran can’t be trusted and Argentine Jewish leaders expressed “great disappointment” at the meeting, Timerman quickly met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, assuring him that Argentina won’t be fooled.
Argentina “has always kept at the center of its decisions the victims and their families, seeking a court ruling that takes into account Argentina’s legal system,” Timerman said, according to a foreign ministry statement.
But also on Friday, Timerman defended Iran’s nuclear energy program, joining Venezuela in a show of support for the Iranian government, which is suspected by the United States, Israel and other nations of trying to build atomic weapons in violation of treaty commitments. Iran insists its program is aimed solely at using nuclear power to generate electricity.
Timerman said countries that already have nuclear weapons should dismantle them. “The best way of assuring that nuclear weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands is their total elimination,” he said.
The Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association, whose Buenos Aires headquarters was bombed in 1994, said in a statement Friday: “Experience teaches us that Iran doesn’t come with clean hands to dialogue about its responsibility for terrorist acts around the globe, such as that of AMIA. Neither does it do so when it comes to its nuclear program.”