Iranians arrested in Argentine bombings

May 17, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- The Argentine government, saying it is nearing a breakthrough in the investigation of two bombings of Jewish centers in recent years, has arrested eight Iranian residents and ordered the expulsion of seven of Iran's eight embassy employees stationed here.

Senior officials say Argentina is close to breaking relations with Iran, acknowledging that U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have been correct for years in asserting that Tehran played a direct role in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy here and the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, the city's main Jewish community center. A total of 114 people died as a result of the two attacks.

At a news conference Friday night, Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella said "potential but very significant evidence" had prompted the government to downgrade relations with Tehran and consider even stronger actions in the next few days. He said Argentina would remove one of its two remaining diplomats in Tehran.

Abdolrajim Sadatifar, Iran's senior diplomat here, denied any Iranian involvement in the bombings in interviews with Argentine journalists.

Iran announced that it was preparing economic sanctions against Argentina.

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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