- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

Interpol has failed in assisting Argentina in locating and capturing the terrorists who bombed a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 persons and injuring 150 others, the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee say.

“Interpol may not be following standard procedures in its handling of arrest warrants issued by the government of Argentina for 11 Iranians and Shi’ite militia Hezbollah members implicated in” the bombing, said committee Chairman Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican.

In a letter Friday to Ronald K. Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, Mr. Lantos and Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said the agency — which processes arrest warrants issued by member governments — “appears to have taken the unusual step of undertaking its own review of the evidence.”

In the letter, the representatives challenged pending meetings with Iran by Interpol on the arrest warrants.

“Argentina government authorities have issued new and more extensive indictments … with additional, relevant and conclusive evidence of Iran’s involvement in the attack,” the letter said. “We would like an explanation of the purpose and intent of these proposed proceedings or meetings with the government of Iran on the warrants and investigation.”

Interpol, with 186 members, is the world’s largest international police organization. It facilitates cross-border police cooperation, including the worldwide distribution of arrest warrants and alerts for capture issued by member states.

In November, the Argentine government issued arrest warrants for 11 Iranians, including former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Monsen Rabbani, former Iranian cultural attache in Buenos Aires, who has been tied to the purchase of a van used in the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association.

“Interpol should act expeditiously and assist Argentina to locate and capture the alleged perpetrators of terror,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said. “Anything less than full cooperation undermines Interpol’s essential mission.”

Interpol officials in Washington referred inquiries to spokesmen in France, who were unavailable for comment.

The July 18, 1994, attack at the association was Argentina’s deadliest bombing, but the case has been marked by incompetence and accusations of cover-ups. In August 2005, Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who was in charge of the case, was impeached and removed from his post on charges of “serious” irregularities and of mishandling the investigation.

In October, Argentine prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos accused the government of Iran of directing the bombing and the Hezbollah militia of carrying it out. The prosecutors said Argentina had been targeted by Iran after the Argentine government’s decision to suspend a nuclear-technology transfer contract to Tehran.

Most of the 85 who died in the bombing were Jewish. The attack came two years after an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29.

Speaking on state radio, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hoseyni described the accusations against Iran as “a Zionist plot.” Both Hezbollah and Iran deny any involvement in the bombing.

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