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Minister-designate row rages on between Iran, Argentina

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As Tehran summons the Argentine charge d’affaires to protest condemnation of Iran’s defense minister-designate, Argentina calls for the arrest of the Iranian general, Ahmad Vahid.

Mario Enrique Quinteros was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday after a statement by the Argentine Foreign Ministry condemned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defense minister choice.

The Foreign Ministry said the latest moves by Buenos Aires presented “manifest interference in Iran’s internal affairs,” according to a press release.

President Ahmadinejad has picked Vahidi, a senior military official, as his defense minister. His appointment needs to be ratified by the Majlis (Iran’s Parliament), before he can formally take up the position.

Vahidi is one of five Iranian officials wanted in Argentina in connection with the 1994 bomb attack against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.

Iran denies any connection with the attack and has condemned the atrocity.

The move by Iran’s Foreign Ministry comes as Argentine Cabinet Chief Fernandez on Monday said Vahid “should be arrested” over the alleged ties with the AMIA attack.

An earlier extensive investigation in Argentina, in 1990’s cleared Iran of involvement in the attack and focused on rogue elements within the Argentine police.

However, Argentina has recently diverted the investigation toward Iran once again, deciding to give credence to the testimony of a wholly discredited and paid “witness” from the anti-Iran MKO – a proscribed terrorist organization in the US, who was promised right of residence in the US in return for his testimony.

The investigating judge, Juan José Galeano, who had originally blamed Iran, was removed from the case in 2005, for “serious” irregularities, mishandling of the investigations and bribing witnesses. However, his conspiracy theories of an Iranian involvement were taken up by his successor.

Iran’s ambassador to Argentina at the time of the attack, Hadi Soleiman-Pour, was arrested in the UK in 2003 on an extraction request from Buenos Aires.

However, after a thorough investigation, the English court rejected the request due to lack of evidence against the Iranian official and he was released consequently.

On Monday, the Argentine charge d’affaires was told that, “instead of defending the interests of the people of Argentina, that country’s judicial system is defending the interests of Zionists.”

Argentina’s judiciary was blasted for “insulting the people of Argentina by diverting the investigations through the payment of bribes, fabrication of documents and evidence and deceiving the public.”

Quinteros said that he would urgently convey Iran’s protest to his government.

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