Menem calls for expulsion of Iranian envoy: Four embassy staff 'linked to Buenos Aires blast'

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The Independent Online
ARGENTINA summoned the Iranian ambassador, Habi Soleiman Pour, yesterday, after President Carlos Menem said he should be expelled for Iran's alleged role in an anti- Jewish bomb blast that killed nearly 100 people.

The move came after a judge issued arrest warrants for four former embassy staff in connection with the bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires last month.

'I think what is called for is at least the withdrawal or the expulsion, yes, the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador in a first instance,' President Menem told a radio interviewer. He stressed that a final decision would be up to the foreign ministry, as he had only just read the preliminary findings.

This was the latest twist in the spiral of charge and countercharge over the explosion which killed 100 on 18 July. It followed the issuing of international arrest warrants by Judge Juan Jose Galeano for the four. 'Former Iranian diplomats may have played a part in the events under investigation and this is why their arrest is ordered worldwide,' the judge told reporters. The four wanted men had served at some stage at Iran's Buenos Aires embassy. They were named by an Iranian defector to Venezuela, the judge confirmed. Interrogation of the defector, Manoucher Motamer, had been crucial in naming the suspects.

The judge also named the Iranian cultural attache in Buenos Aires, Mohsen Rabbani, saying he had been visiting used car dealers to ask about vans identical to the one used in the attack.

The four were identified as Ahmad Allameh Falsafi, Abbas Zarrabi-Khorassani, Gholamreza Mahvash Monsef and Akbar Parvaresh. None was in Argentina when the attack took place.

The Iranian foreign ministry wasted little time in protesting against the arrest warrants. It summoned the Argentine charge d'affaires in Tehran and handed him a noted categorically rejecting what it called 'these baseless and discourteous allegations' and protesting against the defamation of Iranian dignitaries and officials. It said the men had been accused on the testimony of someone it called a defector. This was in itself a shift in position. Earlier the Iranian authorities said that the accusers had never had any position at the embassy.

According to the Iranian authorities one of the four accused , Akbar Parvaresh, was a member of parliament who had been on an official visit to Argentina in December. They also stated that all the named men had left Argentina between 9 months and six years before the attack on the Jewish community centre.

In Britain, officials said they had no proof of Iran being implicated in the Buenos Aires bombing.

A leading opponent of the Islamic government in Iran, Amir Alai, died yesterday in a Tehran hospital after a road accident which his colleagues immediately said was set up by the Ministry of Information and Intelligence.