Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Iran accuses Israel, US of influencing Interpol wanted list


Iran's top diplomat in Argentina says the US and Israel are pressuring Interpol to put a handful of his countrymen on the international police agency's most-wanted list for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.

The lead prosecutor in Argentina's worst terror attack, however, says the case is not a political matter. He is calling for Interpol to take action at the 186-nation agency's general assembly that opens today in Marrakech, Morocco.

"Iran has been permanently trying to politicize this," prosecutor Alberto Nisman said before flying to Marrakech.

"We are going to Morocco with our truth and we are going to explain why these persons are being sought, as simple as that," Nisman said.

There have been no convictions 13 years after an explosives-laden van leveled the seven-story Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.

Argentine prosecutors allege Iranian officials orchestrated the bombing and entrusted the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah to carry it out. They say they have sufficient evidence for Interpol member nations to approve "red notices" for six suspects -- five Iranians and one Lebanese.

A red notice means a suspect is wanted for possible extradition. While it does not force countries to arrest or extradite suspects, people with red-notice status appear on Interpol's equivalent of a most-wanted list.

In Marrakech, Interpol is expected to outline to delegates arguments from both Argentina and Iran. If a simple majority decides in Argentina's favor, the notices will be issued. Iran has asked that the issue be delayed until next year, a request expected to be voted on first.

The July 18, 1994 attack struck Argentina's 200,000-strong Jewish community, Latin America's largest. At the time, they were still grieving over a bombing two years earlier that shattered Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29.

Many remain indignant at the lack of convictions in the case. Several Argentine suspects -- civilians and former police officers accused of providing support to the bombers -- were cleared in a trial three years ago.

Victims' relatives have complained for years that the investigation was bungled. Amid allegations he paid a key witness, the investigating judge was impeached.

Now Argentine officials and Jewish community leaders hope Interpol can give a boost to the country's justice system.

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