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July 12, 2018 12:25 pm

Ignoring Extradition Request, Russian President Putin Meets With Senior Iranian Envoy Wanted by Argentina for 1994 AMIA Bombing

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Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Iranian regime envoy Ali Akbar Velayati in Moscow. Photo: kremlin.ru.

Argentina’s government voiced its frustration with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration on Thursday, after Moscow ignored a formal request from an Argentine judge to arrest a senior visiting Iranian official implicated in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Putin met on Thursday with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to the regime’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, greeting him warmly in front of reporters. Velayati was Iran’s foreign minister at the time of the AMIA atrocity on July 18, 1994, when 85 people died and hundreds more were wounded after a truck packed with explosives drove into the Jewish organization’s main building in the Argentine capital.

Velayati was also present at a meeting of top Iranian security officials in the city of Mashhad on August 14, 1993, where the decision to bomb the AMIA building is understood to have been made.

Velayati’s face-to-face with Putin on Thursday came just 36 hours after Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral requested his arrest by the Russian authorities. It was Judge Corral who issued international arrest warrants for Velayati and seven other Iranian and Lebanese operatives in 2006. Corral also tried unsuccessfully to secure Velayati’s arrest under the same warrant in 2016, when the Iranian visited Singapore and Malaysia.

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Argentine news outlet Infobae.com reported that both Argentina’s foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, and its ambassador to Moscow, Ricardo Lagorio, had reached out personally to their Russian counterparts to enforce Corral’s arrest warrant.

“Until now, there have been no responses from the Kremlin and we have only received bureaucratic evasions,” an senior Argentine Foreign Ministry spokesman told the outlet on Thursday.

While Argentine officials recognize that the Russians are hardly likely to arrest Khamenei’s personal envoy, Foreign Ministry sources told Infobae that, nonetheless, it is legally incumbent upon the authorities in Moscow to do so.

They pointed to an extradition treaty between Russia and Argentina that binds both countries to execute arrest warrants for wanted foreign nationals on the territory of either. The treaty has been active since July 2014, when it was signed by Putin and former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Argentina is now considering whether it will register a formal diplomatic complaint to the Russians following Velayati’s non-arrest, although the government is said to be nervous about increasing any tensions with Moscow.

Velayati arrived for his meeting with Putin carrying two personal messages for the Russian president, one from Khamenei and the other from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Kremlin spokesman Dimiti Peskov told reporters that he could not “give details of the content of the messages, but they deal with bilateral relations.”

Peskov added that the Iranian leadership had conveyed to Putin its position on US and Israeli demands for the removal of Iranian troops from neighboring Syria, where both Tehran and Moscow have backed the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad.

Putin’s meeting with Velayati followed Wednesday’s talks in Moscow with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who restated Israel’s determination that the Iranian military presence be removed from Syria entirely.

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