The bilateral memorandum of understanding, MOU, between Argentina and Iran to investigate the 1994 AMIA bombing was cleared for debate by the Lower House committees on Tuesday and will be discussed on Wednesday at the floor. Foreign Minister Hector Timerman clashed with opposition lawmakers during his briefing over the case.
Lawmakers from the Victory Front majority bloc along with its allies reached the needed 59 signatures. However for Wednesday’s vote in the full house, where the government majority is not certain, it is expected that some lawmakers turned ministers in provincial governments will be taking theirs seats back again.
The Argentine Jewish community AMIA building in downtown Buenos Aires was flattened in a bomb attack on 18 July 1994 killing 85 and injuring hundreds. Argentine prosecutors have indicated a Hezbollah-Iran link in the attack with local accomplices, which Teheran flatly denies.
Timerman left the building after answering the questions of the heads of the parties and listening to the leaders of the Jewish community and families of the attack's victims. Although he had answered to questions made by the opposition, he was expected to go through another session of questions, this time from the members of the committees.
Nevertheless Timerman left the building, action that led to the discontent and shouts of the opposition against him. The majority of the opposition lawmakers left the committee, but the Victory Front had already the number of signatures assured to clear the deal for debate.
Sitting before the Foreign Relations and Judicial and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Timerman was initially addressed by the head of the opposition UCR caucus Ricardo Gil Lavedra, who questioned the minister for “saying this agreement will lead to justice.”
“You can’t say that the interrogation is the first step in the judicial process, because it all ends with the interrogation,” he said, adding that he wanted to know whether during negotiations with Iran, Argentina had discussed “other bilateral affairs.”
Timerman assured that “no other issue had been discussed,” immediately slamming the opposition Radical party for their attempt to sell grains to Iran in the 80s when they were in office.
He later clashed with the PRO caucus leader Federico Pinedo, who asked “why the agreement had been reached on the anniversary of the Holocaust.”
Timerman reacted by urging the lawmaker to “take back what he had said” assuring that was willing to stay in Congress until 2 AM because he had “deeply offended him.”
“It is clear that none of you ever lost anyone in the Holocaust. You keep adding fuel to the fire and keep using the Holocaust politically. You should be ashamed of yourselves,” he yelled.
Later came lawmaker Elisa Carrio’s turn, who harshly criticized Timerman for “giving up on the Jewish and Argentine people.”
“If I were you, I would have resigned before signing this embarrassment,” Carrio said.
After three hours of exposition, Timerman said that he is aware that “he will pay a very steep price for this, and he accepts it, but he believes it’s what’s best for the victims.”
The Argentine government had expressed confidence on reaching quorum regardless of the announced intention by the opposition, which unanimously opposes the potential treaty, to frustrate the session.
Opposition deputies met with AMIA and DAIA Jewish community grouping leaders Guillermo Borger and Julio Schlosser earlier in the week, who also oppose the agreement and have reiterated their mistrust of Iran as a partner, considering that former and current officials of the Middle Eastern country have been accused of involvement in the attack, besides the fact that Teheran denies the holocaust and wants Israel erased from the face of earth.