Argentina asks Iran to help in 1994 bombing probe

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BUENOS AIRES, Sep 23 (Reuters) Argentine President Nestor Kirchner asked Iran to answer petitions for arrests and information in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center, state news agency Telam reported.

Argentina has accused former high-level Iranian officials in the bombing in Buenos Aires and last year asked for their arrest. Iran denies any involvement in the attack.

In a speech set for Tuesday at the UN General Assembly, Kirchner is expected to criticize Iran for failing to collaborate in the investigation of the blast that killed 85 people and injured more than 200.

Iran's top diplomat in Buenos Aires told Clarin newspaper this week that if Kirchner made such a speech at the United Nations, it would be interpreted as a sign that Argentina supports war against Iran.

''For our country, this assembly is very important, it will show which countries are for or against war. It is possible that if President Kirchner accuses Iran, many countries will interpret Argentina as being for war,'' Mohsen Baharvand told Clarin.

Iran is embroiled in a standoff with the West over its nuclear ambitions and is under UN sanctions. The United States says Tehran wants to make bombs, but Tehran denies that and has threatened to hit back at regional US interests if attacked.

In response to Baharvand's comments, Kirchner yesterday asked Iran to ''answer the petitions that have been made'' by Argentina for arrests and information.

''Just as I strongly defend multilateralism and strongly reject the invasion of Iraq, I also ask that justice functions between all countries,'' Kirchner said.

Telam said Baharvand went to Argentina's Foreign Ministry on Friday for a meeting after he was asked explain his comments.

The bombing of the AMIA Jewish center occurred two years after an explosion destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and killed 29 people. Neither attack has been solved.

REUTERS AK PM0435

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