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Israel denies former envoy’s claim it killed most of the AMIA bombers

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman (left) has called on former Israeli ambassador Itzhak Aviran to testify.

Timerman complains about ‘hidden information’

Israel yesterday denied a claim by its former ambassador to Argentina that Israelis killed most of those who were responsible for the attacks on the country‘s embassy and a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires during the 1990s.

Yesterday, the Israeli government’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the claim “complete nonsense,” but declined to elaborate.

That denial, however, did not relieve the government that seized on the comments by Itzhak Aviran, who was Israel’s ambassador to Argentina from 1993 to 2000, to aim fire at Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman characterized the accusations by Aviran as serious.

“From Aviran’s statements we can deduce the reasons why Israel has opposed the Memorandum of Understanding” that the country signed with Iran last year, Timerman said.

The former ambassador called the accord “a farce” that has accomplished nothing, and suggested that the Israelis, by contrast, acted resolutely to take care of the case in a covert manner.

The 1994, 85 people were killed at the AMIA Jewish community centre, and hundreds were injured, in an attack that Argentina has long said was masterminded by Iran. In 1992, a car bombing outside the Israeli embassy killed 29 people.

Itzhak Aviran to the local Jewish News Agency (AJN) that “the vast majority of those responsible (for the bombings) are no longer of this world, and we did that ourselves.”Aviran has retired.

At press time, it was not informed if the Israeli government had held any communication with the Argentine government to explain the allegations.

Crossfire

In his AJN interview, Aviran was critical of what all the Argentine governments have done so far to solve the crimes: “Neither (former president Carlos) Menem, nor (former president Fernando) de la Rúa, nor any of those who came afterward did anything to clear up what happened.”

The former ambassador also urged the Argentine state to give a response to the victims, though he had previously said that Israelis had taken law into their own hands.

Aviran specifically attacked Timerman, who yesterday responded to his criticism.

“I heard that Timerman, the famous Argentine Foreign Minister, said that he wanted to create a commission to find the guilty parties with the Iranians, who were the ones reponsible,” Aviran said in an ironic tone, making a clear reference to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Kirchnerite administration and the Iranian authorities early last year.

The Jewish community has largely been opposed to the agreement with Iran, which was declared to be constitutional by Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral last month.

“Timerman has a very problematic history with us. First, it was his father (the journalist Jacobo Timerman), whom we saved (during the last dictatorship that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983), who insulted us. Then, it was his son who said these things which are anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli,” he complained.

Timerman harshly criticized Aviran’s words but also addressed the Israeli government.

“His words are very serious because they would imply that Israel hid information from Argentine courts, blocking new evidence from appearing,” he added.

Justice

Timerman also demanded that Aviran inform if Israel had further information about those suspected of attacking the AMIA Jewish community centre.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor Alberto Nisman — who also opposed to the Memorandum of Understanding — said he has asked the Argentine foreign ministry to formally request that an Israeli judge force Aviran to provide a sworn statement regarding his claims.

“I’m surprised at these statements,” Nisman yesterday told Clarín Group’s news channel Todo Noticias. “I would like to know how he knows this, who these people might be and what proof he has.”

Nisman has been investigating the bombing, which he blames on a group of current and former high-level Iranian government officials, but has never been able to get them extradited to Argentina to stand trial.

“What he’s saying is that they (the Israelis) identified by first and last name the authors of the attack,” Nisman added. “I would like to hear Aviran say who these people are whom they theoretically ‘sent to the other world.’”

Whether there is any truth to his claims, it is clear that Aviran’s words have sparked a diplomatic row.

The Foreign Ministry led by Timerman called the Israeli business envoy for a sit-down on Monday, at which the Argentine authorities will demand more information about Aviran’s statement and what President Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration will do to clear up the words of the former ambassador.

— Herald with AP, Télam

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