Argentina's new government won't seek to revive deal with Iran

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s new government will not appeal a court’s decision to strike down a deal with Iran over investigating a deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center, a government source said on Friday, putting the long-running controversy to rest.

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri waves alongside First Lady Juliana Awada (L) next to an honour guard outside Buenos Aires' Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

President Mauricio Macri took office on Thursday. Former leader Cristina Fernandez had said she would appeal the ruling last year voiding the agreement she signed with Iran in 2013 to investigate the country’s suspected role in the bombing.

The memorandum would have created a joint “truth commission” made up of five independent judges from third-party countries to investigate the bombing. It would also have allowed for Iranian suspects in the case to be questioned.

Tehran denies any responsibility in the attack that killed 85 and refuses to extradite its citizens. Argentine laws meanwhile forbid trying suspects in absentia.

Fernandez always maintained that, given these limitations, the memorandum was the only way to confirm whether Iran’s government was behind the attack, as Argentine prosecutors have alleged.

Yet many Jewish groups and others believed the deal signaled the end of Argentina’s willingness to pursue the case. The American Jewish Committee compared it to “asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”

A federal court last year deemed the memorandum “unconstitutional.”

The government source, who is familiar with the matter but declined to be named, said Buenos Aires would issue on Monday a news release making it clear it accepted the court’s decision and would not seek to revive the deal.

“This news is excellent, not only for the DAIA (Argentina’s leading Jewish association) but also for Argentine society,” DAIA President Julio Schlosser wrote in a statement.

Still, it is unclear how Argentine investigators can now take the case forward, given there is no apparent legal way to interview the Iranian suspects.

The investigation became front-page news again at the beginning of the year, when the lead prosecutor in the probe accused Fernandez of seeking to derail his work. Four days later, he was found dead with a bullet wound to the head.

Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Sandra Maler