- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

Interpol issued alerts yesterday to arrest five Iranian officials and a Hezbollah leader suspected of planning the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and injured more than 150 others.

The orders, known as capture notices, were issued to the world’s police organizations in the wake of criticism from the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who accused the international police agency of failing to assist Argentina in locating and capturing those suspected in the deadly blast.

In January, Reps. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, urged Interpol to quickly issue capture notices for those charged by Argentina in the bombing and questioned whether Interpol was following standard procedures in its handling of Argentina’s arrest warrants for the Iranians and the official of the Shi’ite militia Hezbollah.

In a letter to Ronald K. Noble, Interpol secretary-general, 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.” The lawmakers 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.”

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen commended yesterday’s action, saying it upheld the integrity of the Argentine judicial inquiry that found sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the Iranian officials and their Hezbollah proxies.

“It is my hope that Interpol will now act expeditiously to implement its decision so that these fugitives will be compelled to answer for their alleged role in this terrorist attack,” she said.

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

In November 2006, Argentine officials issued arrest warrants for those implicated in the bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association. The July 18, 1994, attack was Argentina’s deadliest bombing, but the case was marked by accusations of incompetence and cover-ups.

In August 2005, Judge Juan Jose Galeano was impeached and removed from his post on charges of “serious” irregularities and of mishandling the investigation. Two months later, Argentine prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos accused Tehran 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. Most of the 85 who died in the bombing were Jewish. The attack was carried out 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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