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Iran seeks rapprochement as Argentina marks AMIA bombing anniversary

Firemen and policemen search for wounded people after a bomb exploded at the Argentinian Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, July 18, 1994
Ali Burafi (AFP/File)

Recent reports from Tehran indicate that the country blamed for the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, is looking to collaborate with Argentina on the probe of the deadly attack. In response, the Argentine Jewish community has rejected these efforts and reaffirmed the call to extradite the Iranian suspects for trial in local courts.

On Tuesday, the South American country will commemorate 23 years since a suicide car bomb loaded with 300 kg of explosives was detonated at the entrance of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building in downtown Buenos Aires during the morning hours of July 18th, killing 85 people and injuring 300.

Hours before the official ceremony, AMIA's new leader, Agustin Zbar, spoke with i24NEWS regarding the latest developments from Iran, while sharing his thoughts on the matter through a meticulous review of the tragic sequence of events.

"We know the truth about what happened in the AMIA massacre: we know the attack was decided upon in Tehran, [we know] that Argentine citizens prepared a van as a bomb and delivered it to Hezbollah agents who put a suicide terrorist named Ibrahim Berro inside, who later detonated himself," explains Zbar.

“We know the truth but we need justice, we need to get the defendants to appear before Argentine courts to face the charges and the evidence. Until we have justice based on truth, we will not have peace for the dead of AMIA," he adds.

Through an official press release signed by Zbar and published on July 13, the Jewish organization insists that this is the direction that must be taken.

"The only formal cooperation Argentina can accept is that the people required by Interpol, and the others accused, appear before the judiciary with all the guarantees of due process established in our constitution," it said.

En relación al ofrecimiento de cooperación que la República de Irán habría manifestado ante Interpol, AMIA expresa: https://t.co/tdEoaBIGqb pic.twitter.com/2tZuSVyAXY

— AMIA (@InfoAMIA) July 13, 2017

"So far, Iran's government actions have shown a complete lack of commitment in order to contribute to the clarification of the attack, politically protecting the accused and dismissing the evidence," the document states.

Anti-terror meeting in Iran

A regional conference of the international policing framework, Interpol, was held in Tehran last week, under the framework of "Project Kalkan" which targets terrorism-related matters in Central and South Asia.

According to the Iranian news agency Tasnim, the initiative included the participation of 29 counter-terrorism experts, who discussed "the ways to strengthen regional and international cooperation in the fight against foreign terrorist fighters."

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Strock opened the two-day meeting, which was attended by local officials, among them the Iranian Deputy for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi.

At this event, the two reportedly discussed a new rapprochement with Argentina following a previous failed attempt under a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013, a bilateral agreement that was secretly discussed and signed by the administration of then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano

The deal consisted of a purported joint effort to solve the 1994 attack, enabling a mutual mechanism to be supervised by a third party. But the memo raised the anger of the Argentine Jewish community as well as public opinion.

Fernandez de Kirchner never succeeded in explaining its purpose, and shortly after it was declared unconstitutional.

Two years later, a federal attorney named Alberto Nisman, would use that pact as part of a probe to blame Kirchner, her Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, and other members of her government for a cover-up of the AMIA investigation in order to favor the Iranian suspects.

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Nisman filed the accusation on January 14, but four days later he was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head, hours before he was due to present his case before a special committee of congress. The Kirchner administration insisted it was a suicide.

Survivor

Javier Miropolsky, 46, worked in the social services division at AMIA. He and his colleagues had been moved to another floor due to construction work, at the time when the car bomb exploded at the building.

It took rescuers five hours to reach him where he was lay, screaming under the rubble of what used to be his office.

Only three people out of 20 in his division survived, and he was one of them.

"To me, every day of the year is July 18 until justice is done", Miropolsky told i24NEWS during an interview from his residence in Arad, Israel.

"I was left badly physically injured. Initially, the doctors wanted to amputate my left leg”, Miropolsky adds.

"I underwent 10 surgeries and suffered from 'crush syndrome' in the left part of my body."

Miropolsky says his mission is to tell others what happened during that tragic day in Buenos Aires: "This should not be forgotten, people need to apply pressure in order to clarify what happened."

Miropolsky explains that the attack was one of the main reasons he later decided to emigrate to Israel. Asked about his confidence in the Argentinian institutions following 23 years of injustice, Miropolsky was clear and brief:

"I don't trust them."

Meanwhile, Argentine President Mauricio Macri has received the leaders of the Jewish organizations AMIA and DAIA (Delegation of Israeli Argentine Associations) to his office, where he expressed his support and the government’s commitment to the cause.

According to local reports, the Macri administration has no intention to collaborate with Iran on the investigation.

The official act of commemoration will take place on Tuesday at 09.53 (local time), the exact time of the attack. Several government officials will attend, but the head of state will not be present at the event.

However it won’t be the only memorial act held - a reflection of what 23 years without justice has done to the local Jewish community. Political differences have polarized those who remain alive and relatives of the victims as well.

Only time will tell if the wounds can be healed.

Damian Pachter is i24NEWS's Latin America correspondent and a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. Follow him on Twitter.

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