Jewish groups in Argentina have dismissed a proposal from the Iranian foreign ministry last week offering cooperation with the Argentinian government regarding the AMIA center bombing in 1994 in which 85 people were killed.
“Talking does not equal progress if it doesn’t lead to a trial,” said Julio Schlosser, secretary-general of the AMIA Jewish umbrella organization to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Referring to Argentinian Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman’s statement on Sunday that the proposal was “a very positive step,” Schlosser said, “The only reason for the Argentinian government to talk with Iran about the matter is to schedule a place and a date for a trial of those implicated in the attack.”
He added that it was unclear what the Iranian proposal included and said the details of the offer needed to be clarified before it could be known if it was serious or not. He admitted, though, that the offer was unlikely to lead anywhere.
“We should listen to what [the Iranians] have to say, but AMIA is not going to give up the legal prosecutions.”
“You can’t trust a country that provides money to terrorist organizations and denies the Holocaust,” he added.
Claudio Epelman, director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, told the Post that Iran’s offer was not credible in light of the fact that senior Iranian leaders such as current defense minister Ahmed Vahidi were directly implicated in the attack.
“Expressing sympathies for the victims of the attack on the eve of the commemorations while at the same time continuing to stonewall when it comes to cooperating with Argentina’s judiciary is nothing but cynical,” Epelman said in a statement.
“If Iran is serious, it must fully cooperate with the Argentinian justice system and allow the suspects to be tried in a court of law. We demand appropriate actions, not words.”
It is thought that the attack was carried out by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, on orders from Tehran. In 2007, Interpol issued “red notices” calling for the arrest of six people in connection with the attack.
They included former Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a car bomb in 2008; Vahidi; and the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohsen Rezai.
The Argentinian Jewish community commemorated the 17th anniversary of the bombing on Monday at the AMIA center in Buenos Aires in the presence of Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, along with Foreign Minister Timerman.
In a speech at the commemoration, Diana Malamud, a representative of the Memoria Activa victims group of the AMIA bombing, referred to the Iranian proposal by saying, “We do not accept their condolences.”
“We will probably meet again next year and say the same things and just replace 17 with 18,” she said. “It’ll be the same thing over again.”
The secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, Dan Diker, rejected the possibility that the Iranian offer was credible.
“Iran’s offer to shed ‘all possible light’ on the circumstances of the 1994 AMIA bombing reflects the regime’s long-standing strategy of intentionally misleading the international community while using terror proxies like Hezbollah to wreak destruction and assert control,” he said in a statement.
Dr. Shimon Shapira of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank called the Iranian statement a “PR exercise.”
“It’s clear that no one in Iran means this as a serious offer,” he said. “They have a public relations problem at the moment with international sanctions and especially with regard to the implication of Hezbollah in the death of [former Lebanese prime minister] Rafik Hariri, which explains the timing of the offer.”