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Argentina seeks handover of Iranian ex-minister from Iraq

Iran denies involvement in 1994 bombing of Jewish centre in Buenos Aires
Velayati served as Iran’s foreign minister for 16 years (AFP)

Argentina issued another extradition warrant on Thursday for an Iranian ex-foreign minister wanted in the deadly bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, the government said.

Investigating Judge Rodolfo Canicoba asked Baghdad to extradite Ali Akbar Velayati, who is on the Interpol wanted list, as he is currently on Iraqi soil.

He asked Iraq to arrest Velayati "in order to extradite him, after learning via the international press that the accused travelled to Baghdad" on Wednesday, the Argentine justice ministry said in a statement.

In July, Argentina issued a similar warrant to Singapore and Malaysia after learning Velayati was on a lecture tour of those countries.

Argentine investigators accuse Velayati and four other Iranian former officials, including ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, of orchestrating the 18 July 1994 car bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires.

The Iranians allegedly ordered Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to carry out the bombing, the deadliest attack in the South American country's history.

Velayati served as Iran’s foreign minister for 16 years and unsuccessfully ran for president in 2013. He is now the head of the Center for Strategic Research, an Iranian think-tank.

Iran, which denies involvement, has repeatedly rejected Argentine demands for the accused to testify.

Velayati rejected the accusations as a lie in an interview last year with Argentine television channel C5N.

The attack remains politically explosive in Argentina.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Alberto Nisman, was found dead last year in mysterious circumstances four days after accusing then-president Cristina Kirchner of conspiring with Iran to shield suspects from prosecution.

The case against Kirchner has since been thrown out for lack of evidence.

Nisman's death is still under investigation.

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