NEW YORK — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said he hoped Iran and Argentina could expand their ties soured for more than a decade by a 1994 attack on a Jewish association in Buenos Aires.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the people and nation of Argentina,” Ahmadinejad told a press conference in New York.
“We would like to expand our relations,” he added, blaming “the meddling of others” for creating misunderstanding between the two nations.
“We see ourselves along the side of the people of Argentina… and much of the same aspirations of the Iranians and the nation and people of Argentina are common aspirations and hopes and dreams.”
Speaking through a translator, Ahmadinejad said Tehran had proposed that a group be established “in order to analyze and hold discussions in order to reach the truth.”
“Fortunately the Argentinians have welcomed this proposal. I am hopeful that the dialogues of the two foreign ministers can lay the proper foundation and agenda in order to realize this goal.”
President Cristina Kirchner announced Tuesday she had instructed her foreign minister to hold the talks with his Iranian counterpart at some time in the future at the United Nations.
It would be the first such meeting between the two countries over the attack, which killed 85 people.
Argentina has charged that Iran masterminded the bombing at a building housing Jewish charities and NGOs in Buenos Aires.
Kirchner said that, as Iran has said it wants to cooperate with Argentina’s probe, she expects results from the discussions.
“We expect proposals on how to move forward on this deep conflict that goes back to 1994,” Kirchner told the General Assembly.
She added however that she would not act on any proposal without first consulting with victims of the attack and political parties back home.
Argentina has South America’s largest Jewish community, about 300,000.
In the attack on July 18, 1994 a van loaded with explosives exploded outside the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Aid Association, or AMIA in Spanish.
Besides the fatalities, more than 300 people were injured in the country’s worst terrorist attack. The six-story building that housed the association was leveled.
In 2006, Argentina indicted and sought the extradition of eight Iranians over the massacre. They include the current defense minister and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Kirchner recalled Tuesday that Argentina has raised the possibility of holding a trial in a third country.
Argentine prosecutors allege that the attack was planned and financed in Tehran and carried out by a Hezbollah cell.
In July of last year, the Iranian foreign ministry denied those eight people were involved but said it was prepared to hold a “constructive dialogue” and “cooperate with the Argentine government to shed all light” on the attack.