Saturday, January 4
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Israel is denying a claim by its former ambassador to Argentina that Israelis killed most of those responsible for the South American county's worst terrorist attack.
The Israeli government's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the claim "complete nonsense," but declined to elaborate.
Itzhak Aviran said "the great majority of the guilty ones are already in the other world, and it was we who did this." He also said that Iranians "were the main ones responsible" for the 1994 Jewish cultural center bombing that killed 85 people. Aviran served as Israel's ambassador in Buenos Aires from 1993 to 2000, and was only blocks away from the explosion. He has since retired.
Aviran could not be reached Friday to explain his claims, which Argentina's Jewish News Agency published the day before.
Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, meanwhile, said he's asked the Argentine foreign ministry to formally request that an Israeli judge force Aviran to provide sworn testimony.
"I'm surprised by these affirmations," Nisman told Argentina's Todo Noticias channel on Friday. "I would like to know how he knows this, who these people might be and what proof he has."
Nisman has been exhaustively investigating the bombing, which he blames on a group of current and former high-level Iranian government officials, but has never been able to get them extradited to Argentina to stand trial.
"What he's saying is that they (the Israelis) identified by first and last name the authors of the attack," Nisman added. "I would like to hear Aviran say who these people are whom they theoretically 'sent to the other world'."
Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, is leading a controversial diplomatic effort to resolve the case by questioning the suspects in Iran. Aviran called this Argentine-Iran accord "a farce" that has accomplished nothing, and suggested that the Israelis, by contrast, acted resolutely to take care of the case in a covert manner.
Neither Timerman nor Nisman responded Friday to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Associated Press Writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.