Uruguay ‘opens door’ for Israeli help on security
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Uruguay ‘opens door’ for Israeli help on security

Government rejects claims it expelled Iranian diplomat over attempted Israeli embassy bombing

Illustrative photo of security forces standing guard near the World Trade Center Montevideo, which houses offices of the Israeli embassy, on January 8, 2015 (AFP/Mario Goldman)
Illustrative photo of security forces standing guard near the World Trade Center Montevideo, which houses offices of the Israeli embassy, on January 8, 2015 (AFP/Mario Goldman)

Uruguay said it has opened the door to Israeli help on security following a suspected bombing attempt near Israel’s embassy in which Israel implicated Iran.

On January 8, Uruguayan police found and neutralized an improvised explosive device that had partially detonated outside the embassy in Montevideo.

Foreign Minister Luis Almagro stressed the need to better protect the Israeli embassy in the future. “I recently requested from the interior minister to order special security for the Israeli embassy, as well as for the Jewish community of Uruguay. We need to be prepared for any eventuality,” he told Uruguayan news outlets.

Ministers from Uruguay’s foreign and interior ministries said “immediate help was requested to prevent and protect the Embassy of Israel, its officers and the Jewish community in Uruguay. Also, a door was opened to Israeli cooperation on security. Both ministers allowed the visit of Israeli experts to deepen the investigation.”

January’s attempted bombing came just over a month after the Israeli embassy accused an Iranian diplomat of leaving a suitcase outside of the old Israeli embassy in an attempt to check the embassy’s security and response times. The two incidents were seen as possible preparation for a future attack on the embassy.

Ahmed Sabatgold, 32, was a political consultant in the Iranian embassy, but left suddenly two weeks after the empty suitcase was found on November 24. Israeli officials provided a video to Uruguayan officials showing a car with Iranian diplomatic license plates in the area where the suitcase was found.

The foreign and interior ministries released a joint statement Friday to address reports on Thursday that Sabatgold was thrown out of the country for his role in the event. “The government of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay did not expel any diplomatic representative,” the release said.

But the statement did note that while there was no direct evidence linking the diplomat to the suitcase left outside the old Israeli embassy, “the situation was extremely worrying.”

The Iranian ambassador was summoned to Uruguay’s foreign ministry on December 10, but by that time Sabatgold had already left the country.

The ministry said that “the coincidence of the presence of the Iranian official just a few dozen meters from the briefcase was unfortunate and inadmissible” and that the Uruguayan government would adopt “more severe measures should similar circumstances arise in the future.”

The statement stressed that although Uruguay did not expel a diplomat, the foreign and interior ministries would take steps steps “to ensure national security” and also to “protect diplomatic missions.”

The Iranian embassy claimed that Sabatgold had left Uruguay “because he completed his duty.”

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