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Iran rejects Argentina’s request to arrest interior minister over 1994 bombing at Jewish Center

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Iran lashed out at Argentina on Wednesday after the South American country sought the arrest of Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi over his alleged involvement in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.

Without mentioning Vahidi by name, Iran’s Foreign Ministry warned Argentina against “making baseless accusations against citizens of other countries.” The warning Wednesday came a day after Argentina demanded that Pakistan act on an Interpol red notice to arrest Vahidi during an official visit to Islamabad.

Vahidi, who is wanted by Interpol, cut his government trip to Southeast Asia short, making an unexpected return to Tehran Wednesday.

There was no immediate response from Pakistani authorities.

Argentina’s renewed push to hold Iran accountable for the worst such attack in its history comes as right-wing President Javier Milei reshapes foreign policy to align more closely with Iran’s bitter enemy, Israel, and as tensions surge between the Mideast foes.

In an apparent reference to Israel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani urged Argentina “not to be influenced by those who are enemies of our bilateral relations.”

No one has been convicted for planning or carrying out the 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and wounded over 300 others. But in recent weeks — as Iran faces increasing global isolation and sanctions — Argentina has escalated efforts to condemn Iran and its overseas militant network for its alleged involvement. Iran has repeatedly denied any connection to the attack.

In a move cheered by Israel, Argentina’s highest criminal court this month ruled the Iranian government had plotted the 1994 attack — as well as a 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people. Judges singled out three former Iranian officials for their involvement in the Jewish community center attack — including Minister Vahidi who at the time led the Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force. The court also accused the Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group of executing the attack.

Earlier this week Vahidi accompanied Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Islamabad, where he met with his Pakistani counterpart to discuss intelligence-sharing. Although expected to continue on with Raisi’s delegation to Sri Lanka, Vahidi abruptly turned back, raising speculation that Argentina’s request had complicated his international travel.

He made a surprise appearance Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran, where he praised his trip to Pakistan in interviews with state-linked Iranian news outlets. Meanwhile, President Raisi landed in Sri Lanka.

Argentine authorities said Tuesday they had coordinated with diplomats in Pakistan and India to request Vahidi’s detention and extradition to Buenos Aires. “They continue to hold positions of power with total impunity,” a government statement said. Kanani, the foreign minister spokesperson, accused Argentina of making “illegal and false requests” to defame Iran.

For years, Argentina has tried in vain to leverage Interpol red notices to press for the arrests of accused Iranian officials. The country’s elusive quest for justice in the 1992 and 1994 bombings has been mired in controversy and alleged government coverups.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

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