Iranian Blames Tehran for Jewish Community Center Attack

Buenos Aires - An Iranian witness on Wednesday said the government of Iran was exclusively responsible for the 1994 bombing of the Jewish AMIA community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds, court sources said.

Abolgasem Mesbahi, known as "Witness C", testified via a videoconference from the Argentine Embassy in Berlin, Germany, in the public trial being held in Buenos Aires on the alleged local connection in the attack.

Mesbahi, former chief of the Iranian intelligence service, said "nobody" in Argentina was involved or collaborated "in the logistics or in information in the attack". He said the van stashed with explosives used in the attack had been hired for the purpose.

Iran "did not use local workers" for these attacks, Mesbahi said.

Mesbahi a year ago told the Argentine judiciary about an alleged payment of 10 million dollars made to an emissary of then-president Carlos Menem for him to cover up Teheran's alleged role in the AMIA attack.

In Wednesday's testimony Mesbahi reiterated his charge, saying a "special envoy" sent to Iran by Menem, president of Argentina from 1989-1999, arranged the 10-million-dollar cover-up payment.

The money "was to go to the pockets of [ex] president Menem to halt the campaign" against Iran, Mesbahi said.

However, Mesbahi said he was not aware that the payment had actually been made. He tried to soften his statements saying everything about the payment had been told to him by a person who later died.

Mesbahi said he "had never in his life seen" Menem's alleged envoy. Mesbahi's testimony appeared to contradict what he said last year when he gave a detailed description of the alleged emissary.

Mesbahi said the AMIA center was targeted because the Iranian cultural envoy in Buenos Aires at the time, Moshen Rabbani, had information that it served as a base for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

Mesbahi said it was Rabbani who hired the van used in the attack.

"It's a rule that in terrorist operations local sources of the chosen country can never be trusted. It is not possible that anyone who lived in Argentina was involved in or informed about the attack," Mesbahi said.

His testimony could favor Argentine defendants accused of preparing and handing in the vehicle used in the attack and of other details.

He said that after the attack lobby groups were used in Argentina to block negative propaganda against Iran, which was of great concern for Teheran.