Argentina was advised of possible Iran attacks: source

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:00am EDT

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (Reuters) - Saudi officials advised Argentina four months ago of an alleged Iran-backed plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington and possibly attack the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, an Argentine diplomatic source said on Thursday.

Argentina is home to Latin America's largest Jewish population and a 1992 bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people. Another 85 people died two years later in an attack on the AMIA Jewish community center, which Argentina has accused Iran of helping to plan.

"The Saudis advised us four months ago, at the request of the United States," the Argentine source told Reuters on condition of anonymity, without providing further details.

U.S. authorities announced on Tuesday that they had thwarted an alleged plot backed by Iran to assassinate Saudi Arabia's envoy to the United States. Iran called it a fabrication designed to create tensions with its neighbors.

Washington slapped economic sanctions on five Iranians, including four senior members of the Quds Force, the covert arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, for planning possible attacks in the United States and "another country."

The U.S. ambassador to Argentina, Vilma Martinez, declined to comment on the case when queried by Reuters on Thursday at a business seminar in the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

The Argentine government has made no official statement either, despite U.S. media reports this week that the South American country was the other nation targeted.

President Barack Obama was briefed in June about the alleged plot, soon after U.S. law enforcement agents were tipped off by a paid informant, according to court documents.

Argentina has secured international arrest warrants against former and current Iranian officials it suspects were involved in the attack that leveled the AMIA building in 1994, which Israel has long pinned on Hezbollah guerrillas backed by Iran.

Last month, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez publicly urged Iran to make good on its offer to help investigate the bombing, even though Tehran insists it played no role in the terrorist attack.

For full coverage of the alleged plot.

(Writing by Hilary Burke; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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