Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Iranian defense minister-elect wanted for bombing

AP , CAIRO

The man Iran’s president has named to be defense minister is wanted in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, and his nomination drew an outcry from Argentine and Jewish groups.

Ahmad Vahidi, who commanded a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force at the time of the attack, was nominated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday along with others named to fill Cabinet positions. The Quds Force is involved in operations abroad, including working with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is accused of carrying out the Buenos Aires attack.

Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman said on Friday that Vahidi was accused of “being a key participant in the planning, and of having made the decision to go ahead with, the attack against the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association [AMIA].”

Nisman has led the investigation into the July 18, 1994, bombing — Argentina’s bloodiest terrorist attack. The bomb exploded inside a van outside the AMIA, killing 85 people and wounding 200.

“It has been demonstrated that Vahidi participated in and approved of the decision to attack AMIA during a meeting in Iran on Aug. 14, 1993,” when he led the Quds Force, Nisman said.

He said that Vahidi was never in Argentina.

Argentine officials claim that Iran orchestrated the attack and that Iranian-backed Hezbollah carried it out. The US and Israel have also said Iran was behind the bombing, but Iran has denied it.

Late on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad submitted his 18 Cabinet nominees to parliament, which must approve the list. Most of the nominees were close Ahmadinejad loyalists or little-known figures, while public critics of the president from his previous Cabinet were purged. At least four nominees — for defense, interior, intelligence and oil minister — had ties with the elite Revolutionary Guard, a powerful base of support for the president.

“It’s significant, this nomination, but not surprising,” Nisman said about Vahidi’s nomination. “Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one.”

The president of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Guillermo Borger, told Argentina’s Jewish News Agency on Friday that “we are completely surprised and outraged by the nomination of Ahmad Vahidi ... His nomination is shameless and insulting.”

Interpol said in 2007 it would help Argentina seek the arrest of Vahidi and four other prominent Iranians wanted in connection with the attack.

Among the others is Mohsen Rezaei, who ran against Ahmadinejad in the June 12 presidential election and is a former leader of the Revolutionary Guard.

The other wanted Iranians are former intelligence chief Ali Fallahian; Mohsen Rabbani, former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; and former diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari.

Interpol had also sought Hezbollah militant Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria, in February last year.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Friday that if Vahidi was indeed the man wanted by Interpol, it would be very “disturbing” to see him confirmed in the Iranian Cabinet.

This story has been viewed 2259 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top