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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Iran ex-diplomat faces terror hearing
The aftermath of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires
No one has been charged over the 1994 bombing
A former Iranian diplomat has appeared at a London court in connection with claims that he was involved in a terrorist attack which killed 85 people and wounded 200.

The Argentine Government wants Hade Soleimanpour extradited to face charges that he was part of the conspiracy to bomb a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994.

Mr Soleimanpour, 47, spoke only to confirm his name when he appeared before Bow Street Magistrates' Court, and was remanded in custody until 29 August.

The former Iranian ambassador to Argentina, who is now a research assistant at the University of Durham, denied the charges when he was arrested by police on Thursday.

'Politically motivated'

The Argentine intelligence service has long believed Iran was behind the car bombing and Mr Soleimanpour's arrest follows a fresh investigation.

Iran has strongly denied involvement and has described Mr Soleimanpour's extradition warrant as politically motivated.

There is a political vendetta here and political points being scored against the country and against him
Michel Massih QC
On Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi condemned the arrest as illegal, saying it had been carried out under the influence of a Zionist regime.

He said the Islamic Republic would do everything possible to secure Mr Soleimanpour's release, adding that Iran's foreign ministry would be seeking answers from British diplomats in Tehran.

Mr Soleimanpour made no comment as the conspiracy charge was read to him on Thursday.

But Detective Sergeant Keith Richardson, from Scotland Yard's extradition unit, said he had told officers "it is false" when it was put to him during his arrest.

DS Richardson told the court that Argentine authorities believed the former ambassador had been involved in planning and commissioning the bombing.

They also claim that he provided information about the location and timing of the attack.

Mr Soleimanpour's lawyer, Michel Massih QC, said: "He has always publicly and strenuously denied these allegations.

"There is a political vendetta here and political points being scored against the country and against him."

'National disgrace'

The extradition warrant for Mr Soleimanpour was one of eight issued by an Argentine judge, Juan Jose Galeano, against Iranian citizens last week.

Similar warrants issued in March against four Iranian diplomats caused tension between Buenos Aires and Tehran, and resulted in the recall of the Iranian ambassador.

Last month, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner said the lack of progress in the case was a "national disgrace", and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

Argentina's 300,000-strong Jewish community is the largest in Latin America, and has been the target of other attacks.

A 1992 bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in which 29 people were killed also remains unsolved.


SEE ALSO:
Iran pulls envoy from Argentina
12 Mar 03  |  Americas
Iran diplomat called in bomb row
11 Mar 03  |  Americas
Iran denies Argentina blast role
09 Mar 03  |  Americas
Argentina Jewish bomb trial starts
24 Sep 01  |  Americas


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