Argentine Senate approves deal with Iran to probe 1994 bombing
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's Senate approved on Thursday an agreement with Iran to set up an international "truth commission" to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
The two governments reached the agreement last month on how to deal with the attack in which Argentine court authorities have accused Iranian officials, including the defense minister, of involvement. Iran has denied any link to the bombing.
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.
Critics also say it is unconstitutional for the executive branch to get involved in judicial matters and that the international commission's findings could hurt Argentina's court case.
Senators voted 39-31 to approve the accord, with most of the political opposition voting against it. The bill will now pass to the lower house, which is also controlled by government allies and could vote as early as next week.
In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians, including Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, and one Lebanese citizen accused of helping plot the AMIA Jewish community center attack. Tehran has refused to turn the men over.
The suspects cannot be convicted unless they are tried in Argentina, where no one else has been held responsible for the bombing. The government presents the agreement with Iran as the best way to make progress on a paralyzed case.
"We know this is difficult if there are hidden motives on the other side of the signing of this memorandum," ruling-party senator Daniel Filmus said during Thursday's debate. "If there's a lack of collaboration on the other side of the memorandum, the Argentine case ... will be strengthened because it will be even clearer who is guilty."
The agreement stipulates that the commission - made up of five foreign legal experts - will issue a report after evaluating Argentina's investigation into the case. Argentine and Iranian judicial officials will then meet in Tehran to interrogate the people sought by Interpol. Continued...