JERUSALEM (AFP) — Interpol's decision to uphold arrest warrants against five Iranian suspects in a deadly 1994 bombing against a Jewish organization in Argentina was welcomed by Israel Thursday but slammed by Iran.
"It sends the following message to the terrorists -- that even if takes time, they need to know that they will eventually be brought to book," Israel's ambassador to Argentina Raphael Eldad told public radio.
Iran, which had fought hard to have the arrest warrants lifted, reacted angrily to the decision taken by a two-thirds majority at the world police body's annual general assembly in the Moroccan city of Marrakech.
"Iran strongly denounces the decision of Interpol to uphold the warrants requested by the Argentine judiciary," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a statement issued in Tehran.
"Although the issuing of such warrants by Interpol does not amount to a confirmation of Argentina's claims of Iranian involvement in the AIMA (Argentine Israeli Mutual Association) bombing, we were not expecting this professional body to tarnish its legal status by accepting the political will of the Zionist regime," he said.
Iran has always blamed Israel and its friends in the United States for Argentine prosecutors' allegations that it masterminded the bombing and entrusted its execution to its Lebanese ally, Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
"Transferring the pressures from the Argentine government to Interpol in order to fulfil political aims is a matter of great sorrow and is contrary to international law and utterly rejected and unacceptable," said Hosseini.
He added that Iran would continue "to fight through legal channels for the rights of its citizens" facing the arrest warrants, who include former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian and former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezaei as well as three diplomats.
Arrest warrants were initially issued against three other senior Iranians, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, in November last year but they were lifted by Interpol's executive committee in March.
The Israeli ambassador acknowledged that there was no immediate prospect of any arrest being made in connection with the July 1994 bombing which levelled the seven-floor AIMA building in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.
"I hope that the arrest warrants will be carried out but I am not very optimistic as Iran is not in the habit of cooperation in this sort of affair," Eldad said.
In a statement after Wednesday's meeting, Interpol president Jackie Selebi insisted that the agency had treated both sides "fairly and impartially" in reviewing the arrest warrants.
Argentina's chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman rejected any suggestion that the warrants were politically motivated and also acknowledged that it was unlikely that Iran would extradite the suspects.
Rescue workers search the rubble after a powerful explosion destroyed a Buenos Aires building in 1994