September 30, 2015 / 1:46 PM / 3 years ago

Argentina rebukes U.S. for failing to aid hunt for ex spy master

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina on Wednesday slammed Washington for failing to answer repeated inquiries on the whereabouts of a fugitive former spy master suspected by President Cristina Fernandez’s government to be seeking refuge in the United States.

A man holds up a sign that reads "Nisman present" during a demonstration to pay homage to late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, two months after he was found dead at his home, in front of the Justice Palace in Buenos Aires, March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Antonio Stiuso, who was operations chief of the now-disbanded Intelligence Secretariat, disappeared following the murky death in January of state prosecutor Alberto Nisman which plunged Fernandez’s government into political turmoil.

Nisman was found with a single bullet to the head days after accusing Fernandez of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Fernandez and her ministers say Stiuso duped Nisman into fabricating unfounded allegations to destabilize the government and then needed him dead, and have previously questioned if the spy-chief was working for the United States.

Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez on Wednesday criticized the U.S. government for failing to respond with information to any of the Argentine government’s eight formal requests for details on Stiuso’s whereabouts.

“We ask ourselves sometimes ‘is the United States ready to allow the bilateral relations between it and Argentina to worsen for a man they all say has no importance, no strategic value for the United States’,” Fernandez said a daily news briefing.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires said: “We don’t comment on requests for assistance in criminal matters and we respond to these requests through established judicial channels.”

The truck-bomb attack on the AMIA Jewish center killed 85 people, the deadliest in Argentine history. Argentine courts have accused a group of Iranians of orchestrating the strike.

Nisman claimed that President Fernandez opened a back-channel to Iran to cover up Tehran’s alleged involvement.

Fernandez’s government called the accusation absurd and an Argentine judge dismissed the case. Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the attack.

In her address to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, President Fernandez rebuked Washington for allowing spies connected to the AMIA case to hunker down in the United States, though she did not mention Stiuso by name.

“It is known that their three month visas have expired, so how can they be in the United States without a visa,” said cabinet chief Fernandez. “I refuse to believe they do not know exactly where they are. These are not easy people to go unnoticed.”

It is still not known whether Nisman was murdered or committed suicide.

Editing by W Simon

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