01 June 2011
Bolivia has said it had taken steps to ensure that visiting Iranian Defense Minister Ahmed Vahidi, who is accused by Argentina of involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing, leaves the country immediately. The government in La Paz apologized to Argentina for the invitation extended to the Iranian official, who is wanted the Argentine judiciary and accused of masterminding the terrorist attack against the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed and hundreds injured. The Bolivian statement came in a letter from the country’s foreign minister to his counterpart in Argentina, which said Vahidi was in Bolivia at the invitation of the country's Defense Ministry.
In the letter, the government of President Evo Morales apologized for the invitation, calling it "a grave incident", and assured Argentina that Vahidi would not be in the country for long. "As a result of this lamentable situation ... the government of Bolivia has taken the corresponding provisions to see to it that Ahmad Vahidi immediately leaves Bolivian territory," said the letter, which was released in Buenos Aires by the Argentine government. "Unfortunately, the [Bolivian Defense Ministry] did not know about the background of the case", nor did it coordinate the invitation with the rest of Bolivia's government, the letter stated.
Sources in Bolivia's government, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the news agency ‘Reuters’ that Vahidi had left Bolivia late on Tuesday. Vahidi enjoys diplomatic immunity, which complicates efforts to bring him to trial although in 2007, prior to his appointment as defense minister, Interpol notified law enforcement bodies in other countries of an Argentine arrest warrant against him. Vahidi was a commander of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran at the time of the terrorist attack and in charge of operations outside of Iran.
Boliviian President Evo Morales has close ties with Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez, who last year proposed that a third country be nominated by Tehran to host the trial of those accused of being involved in the bombing. Iran rejected the idea, saying none of its citizens had been involved.
AMIA President Guillermo Borger called Vahidi's visit to Bolivia "a provocation."
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