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Ex-Iranian Envoy Held in '94 Blast in Argentina

August 22, 2003|From Reuters

LONDON — British police arrested Iran's former ambassador to Argentina on Thursday in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed more than 80 people, Scotland Yard said.

Hadi Soleimanpour was arrested on an extradition warrant in connection with the car bomb attack on the Jewish community center and would appear before London magistrates today, police said.

Last week, a judge in Argentina issued a warrant through Interpol for Soleimanpour, 47, and seven other Iranian officials.

Israel and Washington -- which has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" -- have long said they suspected that Iranian-backed Middle Eastern guerrillas were behind the attack. Iran has denied any involvement.

Soleimanpour is believed to have been living in Durham, England, since February 2002.

Iran withdrew its ambassador from Argentina after being implicated by the Argentine government shortly after the bombing, but Tehran still retains a mission in Buenos Aires.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran to the arrest, but last week it condemned the Argentine arrest orders as part of "international Zionism's plan to manipulate Argentina."

Argentina's 300,000-strong Jewish community is the biggest in Latin America and the seventh-largest in the world.

Two years before the attack on the Jewish center, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 29 people.

Marta Nercellas, the lawyer representing the center, said she was confident Britain would extradite Soleimanpour.

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