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Iran offers Argentina help with bombing probe
Argentine prosecutor casts doubt on Iran offer to help solve Jewish center bombing
By The Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) ' An Argentine prosecutor on Saturday criticized a statement from Iran expressing willingness to help solve Argentina's worst terrorist attack.

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman said Iran's offer is just empty words unless it hands over the Iranian suspects sought by Argentina in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people on July 18, 1994.

The Iranian foreign ministry issued a statement referring to Monday's anniversary of the attack and saying Iran condemns terrorism, expresses sympathy for the victims' families and wants to help investigate the attack.

But Iran also accused Argentine prosecutors of unfairly accusing Iranian citizens and said it has a duty to defend them. The ministry said it will issue a report soon on what it calls an "unfair process" in Argentina, but that Iran is ready now to begin a constructive dialogue with Argentine officials.

An Argentine foreign ministry spokesman said that he had no immediate comment on the Iranian statement.

But Nisman dismissed the Iranian gesture as meaningless unless the country hands over a group of Iranians, including top government officials, who are suspected of organizing the attack.

"If the Iranians and their government are ready to cooperate, they should do it once and for all and in the only way possible: handing over all those accused by the Argentine justice system of this terrible terrorist act and stop making empty declarations that never go anywhere," the prosecutor said at a news conference.

Nisman said the bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association was organized by a group of Iranian diplomats and government officials including the current Iranian defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, who recently visited Bolivia despite an Interpol warrant for his arrest and extradition to Argentina.

Bolivia's foreign ministry formally apologized for failing to act on the Interpol warrant.

Argentina's foreign ministry, meanwhile, promised Argentina's Jewish community that it would send a full report on the Jewish center attack as well as a bombing two years earlier that killed 29 people and destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

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