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A man accused of masterminding the worst terrorist attack in Argentine history has been confirmed as Iran's new Defense Minister. General Ahmad Vahidi, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, is wanted by the Argentine government for planning the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded more than 180 others.
In November 2007 Interpol, at the request of the Argentine government, put Mr. Vahidi and 4 other prominent Iranians on the equivalent of an international most wanted list for their involvement in the Jewish community center bombing.
Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who led the investigation into the attack, said Mr. Vahidi is accused of "being a key participant in the planning and of having made the decision to go ahead with the attack." On the choice of Mr. Vahidi as defense minister, Mr. Nisman said, "It's significant. ... but not surprising. Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one."
Philip Crowley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, called the choice of Mr. Vahadi "disturbing:"
"We think that for Iran, it is sending precisely the wrong message. And we certainly support Argentina's efforts to bring justice to the perpetrators of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires and we will continue to support that."
The appointment of Mr. Vahidi as Iran's defense minister comes as Germany and the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including the U.S., have stepped up calls for Iran to agree to direct diplomatic talks over its nuclear program. Unfortunately," said Assistant Secretary of State Crowley, "rather than taking a step forward to engage the United States and the international community, Iran ... is taking a step backward by putting into a high office a well-known individual suspected of participation in a terrorist attack.