23 July 2002
A New York Times report linking Iran to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, is prompting calls in Argentina for a new investigation of the terrorist incident.
Virtually every major Argentine newspaper and television channel picked up the story, first reported Monday in The New York Times.
Clarin, a leading paper, calls the New York Times report the hardest evidence yet suggesting former Argentine President Carlos Menem was paid to block the investigation into the terror attack that killed 85 people.
The New York Times based its report on a 100-page transcript of alleged secret testimony given to Argentine investigators by a high-level defector from Iran's intelligence agency.
The witness, a man who gave his name as Abdolghassem Mesbahi, said Iranian officials began planning the attack at Iran's Buenos Aires embassy in 1992. He also reportedly testified that Iran's government paid Mr. Menem to cover up its involvement. Mr. Menem was president at the time of the bombing.
Sergio Widder, the Buenos Aires representative of the Jewish human rights group, the Simon Weisenthal Center, says it is important to find out if Iran is sponsoring international acts of terrorism. He added Mr. Menem should be called to testify. "If he's really responsible for the allegations made against him, now more than ever, this should be investigated."
Argentinia's Jewish community has long been frustrated by the lack of progress in the investigation of the bombing.
Carlos Menem is already embroiled in scandal and spent six months under house arrest last year, accused of illegal arms dealing, while in office. Nevertheless, Mr. Menem, who led Argentina from 1989 to 1999, is once again a top candidate for the presidency, with primary elections scheduled for December.
His brother, a senator and campaign aide, called the New York Times story outrageous. The Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires has not responded to a request for an interview.