BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) – Iran financed the 2007 campaign of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in exchange for impunity for Iranians in the AMIA Jewish centre bombing, a Brazilian magazine reported.
According to Veja on Saturday, the deal brokered by Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, also provided the Iranians with nuclear know-how.
“I need you to broker with Argentina for aid to my country’s nuclear program,” Iran’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told Chavez on Jan. 13, 2007, according to the testimony of three former Chavez cabinet members who now live in the United States and are collaborating in the investigation by Argentina. “We need Argentinians to share their knowledge on nuclear technology; without this collaboration it is impossible to advance our program.
“Don’t worry about the expenses required for this operation; Iran will support everything necessary to persuade the Argentines,” Ahmadinejad added. “I have another issue. I need you to discourage the Argentinians from insisting that Interpol capture the authorities of my country.” Chavez agreed.
Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the 1994 AMIA Jewish centre bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and injured hundreds.
The revelation backed the accusation made in January by the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who claimed that Kirchner decided to “not incriminate” former senior officials of Iran and tried to “erase” their roles in planning the bombing, but added that the agreement started in 2007 in Venezuela.
Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the AMIA attack and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, but no arrests have been made in the case.
Venezuela bought $6 billion in Argentina’s bonds to cover the latter’s debt in 2007 and 2008, according to the Veja report. The Argentine government also received cash for the agreement.
One of the cooperating Venezuelan officials said that a suitcase carried by a Venezuelan-American businessman, Guido Antonioni Wilson, containing $800,000, which he brought into the country without claiming and was seized, came from the Iranian regime and was bound for the presidential campaign of Kirchner. The official said that Chavez was the middleman.
Kirchner and Chavez have denied the allegations.
Veja reported that the exchange of nuclear secrets was managed in Argentina by Minister of Defense Nilda Garre, now ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington. Iran was interested in the Argentine experience with its heavy-water nuclear reactor Atucha because it wanted to produce plutonium for use in nuclear weapons using only natural uranium.
“I can’t say that the government of Argentina gave nuclear secrets, but I know it took a lot by legal means and illegal means in exchange for something valuable to the Iranians,” the former officials told Veja.