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Iranian minister nomination spurs protests in Argentina

world Updated: Aug 22, 2009 10:36 IST

The nomination of Ahmad Vahidi to head the Iranian Defence Ministry spurred protests in Argentina, where Justice officials have accused him of being involved in the 1984 bombing of the Jewish mutual association AMIA, which left 85 dead.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday sought parliamentary approval for his 21-member cabinet, which includes Vahidi, ISNA news agency reported. Parliament is to start debating the new appointees on August 30.

Alberto Nisman, an Argentine public prosecutor who is investigating the bombing, said that "this designation would be extremely serious".

"Ahmad Vahidi is someone who, as a former commander of the Al Quds special group, is extremely compromised with relation to the attack on the AMIA headquarters," Nisman said.

The AMIA headquarters in the central Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Once was bombed on July 18, 1994, injuring hundreds of people. Two years earlier, another bombing, against the Israeli embassy in central Buenos Aires left 29 people dead.

Argentine justice officials have asked Interpol to arrest Vahidi, arguing that he was one of five high Iranian officials who took part in a meeting where the bombing was decided.

"Vahidi not only is the object of an arrest warrant issued by Argentine Justice, but he is also one of those people whose red notice was approved by Interpol with votes in favour from the great majority of its members at a General Assembly meeting held in Morocco in November 2007," the prosecutor told the Jewish News Agency.

AMIA president Guillermo Borger, however, said he was not surprised by the appointment.

"This is a regime that does not hand over to be judged the suspects of having taken part in the terrorist attack," Borger said.

He complained that the Iranian government "protects them and appoints them for public positions, although never until now in such a relevant position".

The Argentine Delegation of Israelite Associations (DAIA) also expressed its "repudiation and condemnation over the designation of Ahmad Vahidi as Iran's defence minister".

"The decision adopted by the Iranian president, who systematically denied the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, constitutes an undescribable insult to the victims of the massacre and their families, to the Argentine Jewish community and to the Republic of Argentina and its justice system," the DAIA said in a statement.

Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America.