BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s former foreign minister said on secretly recorded phone conversations that Iran was responsible for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires while he was negotiating with Tehran.
The conversations featuring Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, were released Friday by the Argentine radio station Mitre.
In the leaked recordings of conversations with leaders of the Argentine Jewish community, Timerman defends the efforts made by the government of then-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, saying the only goal is to solve the AMIA case. Timerman justifies the negotiations with Iran to jointly investigate the attack, saying “Eighteen years ago they planted the bomb.”
The bombing left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
The conversations took place in 2012, when AMIA criticized the negotiations with Iran. In the first recording, Timerman is speaking with Guillermo Borger, then the president of the AMIA Jewish community organization.
Timerman says: “I’m calling you because it hurts. It hurts me as a Jew to hear the critics from AMIA. And it seems that the best choice is to do nothing, and if we [the government] do nothing, the AMIA will be happy. But I’m doing this for AMIA.”
The foreign minister also said that AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman told him in a private call that he was in favor of the negotiations, but after Iran and Argentina signed memorandum of understanding to jointly investigate the bombing, Nisman challenged the agreement, asking a federal judge to declare it unconstitutional.
In the second tape, AMIA vice president Jose Scaliter also joins the conversation:
Borger: “We don’t regard Iran as valid [as a negotiating partner].”
Timerman: “And who do you want me to negotiate with, Switzerland?”
Borger: “I will just say that Iran lies, is not credible and denies the Holocaust.”
Timerman: “But we don’t have anyone else to negotiate with […] Well, tell me who you want me to negotiate with?”
Later, Borger says: “I hope you can negotiate with another …”
Timerman: “If there was someone else, they [the Iranians] wouldn’t have planted the bomb. So we are back to the beginning. Do you have someone else for me to negotiate with?”
Scaliter: “We don’t tell you with whom you must negotiate.”
Timerman: “No, you tell me with who cannot negotiate.”
Timerman: “Ah, are you smart.”
Later, Borger says that the special AMIA prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, “carried out a serious and important investigation and says Iran did it.”
Borger: “… so I will trust him if they will present to the justice.”
Timerman: “So how do you want me to bring them [the Iranian fugitives to Argentina]? You never know what should be done.”
Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18. The cause of his shooting death has yet to be determined.
The recording was released by Radio Mitre on a program called “La noticia deseada,” or “the desired news,” on Friday when guest journalist Daniel Santoro provided the recordings that he used in his book, “Nisman debe Morir,” or “Nisman should die.”
In 2015, Timerman resigned his AMIA membership, expressing his “indeclinable resignation” due to the “obstructionist actions” that the institution had made against a deal with Iran to investigate the attack.
Though Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, no arrests have been made in the case. Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing.
The new government of Argentina last week effectively voided an agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing. In its first week of operation, the government under President Mauricio Macri withdrew the appeal filed by its predecessor led by Kirchner of a federal court decision declaring the 2013 pact unconstitutional.