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Argentine Legislators Debate Controversial Argentina-Iran Truth Commission

posted 26 Feb 2013, 15:51 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 26 Feb 2013, 15:52 ]

Tempers flare as Argentine legislators debate controversial Argentina-Iran truth commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre.

BUENOS AIRESARGENTINA (FEBRUARY 26, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Tensions escalated in Buenos Aires on Tuesday (February 26) as legislators debated government plans to form a contentious Argentina-Iran truth commission.

President Cristina Fernandez's administration announced last month that it wanted to move forward with the memorandum to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre (AMIA) that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

Argentine court authorities have accused Iranian officials of involvement, but the Middle Eastern country has systematically denied any link to the bombing.

Argentina's Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman, insisted that the commission has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

"It's very simple: if one of the two countries doesn't fulfill one of the clauses the agreement dissolves, so I don't see what the worry is," said Timerman.

"The important thing is that the memorandum is carried out. If it isn't, then obviously the memorandum ceases to be in effect," he added.

But many Jewish groups in Argentina and abroad reject the accord, saying it gives credibility to Iran at a time when the United States is leading efforts to isolate the country over its disputed nuclear program.

Opposition legislators also slammed the agreement, which was passed by the Senatelast week.

"Everything that he [Timerman] has said doesn't match with the agreement. The analysis that one comes to is that Argentina has definitely played into the hands of the Iranian government. What he isn't saying is that the justice systems of both countries - equal footing - are going to form a commission and they are going to do something that is very similar to an interrogation," said Graciela Camano from the Federal Peronism party.

"Argentina has given up the AMIA case in exchange for who knows what: perhaps Iranian investments, perhaps oil, perhaps to be on good terms with Venezuela, but it has a very high cost - quashing the AMIA case and isolating Argentina," said Eduardo Amadeo, also from the Federal Peronism party.

But Edgardo Depetri, from the government's Victory Front, said his party was in favour of the accord.

"We are going to vote in favour of what is coming from the National Senate. It seems to us, as the foreign minister has said, that it is an important step. It's a state to state agreement. We want the truth. We claim that is was an assassination and a human rights crime. There is a clear promise from the President and we are going to act as a sovereign country," said Depetri.

In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians, including Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi, and one Lebanese citizen accused of helping plot the AMIA attack.

The Lower House is set to vote on the bill on Wednesday (February 27).