(CNSNews.com) - Iran's former intelligence chief, a leading suspect in a 1994 terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires, has responded defiantly to Interpol's decision to place him and five other men on its most-wanted list.
Ali Fallahijan rejected Argentina's accusations of top-level Iranian participation in the suicide car bombing at the Argentine-Israel Mutual Association (AMIA) center, attributing them to a "Zionists' intrigue," the Tehran Times reported this week.
Fallahijan urged Iran's foreign ministry to lodge a complaint against Argentina in international courts for unjustified allegations against the Islamic Republic, and he said it was not too late to clear Iran's name.
Kamal Kharrazi, a former foreign minister who now heads Iran's strategic council on foreign relations, on Monday repeated the denial.
"There is no reason to posit a role for Iran in the AMIA incident," he said. "Certain countries intend to keep the case open under political pressure."
The international police organization's annual general assembly this month upheld an earlier decision by its executive committee to issue "red notices" for the five Iranians and a Lebanese.
The Iranians are Fallahijan, the then-leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); Mohsen Rezai, commander of an IRGC Quds Force special operations unit Ahmad Vahidi; and "diplomats" based at Iran's embassy in Buenos Aires, Mohsen Rabbani and Ahmad Reza Asghari.
The Lebanese national is Hizballah security chief Imad Mughniyah, one of the world's most notorious terrorists who is on the FBI's most-wanted list for hijacking a TWA plane in 1985 and killing 23-year-old Navy diver Robert Stethem.
Mughniyah, who is also on a European Union terrorist list, is suspected of involvement in major attacks, including:
--a series of bombings in Beirut in 1983 in which more than 350 people, including 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 French troops, were killed
--the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which cost 29 lives
--the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen
--the 1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead
'Decision made at the top'
The AMIA bombing is the focus of the current dispute between Argentina and Iran.
After years of inaction, incompetence, alleged cover-ups and bungled inquiries under previous governments, President Nestor Kirchner pledged to get to the bottom of the bombing conspiracy when he took office in 2003.
He appointed a special prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who after in-depth investigations announced a year ago that Iran had masterminded the AMIA bombing and tasked Hizballah -- a Lebanese-based Shi'ite group set up and armed by Iran -- to carry it out.
Nisman issued arrest warrants for nine suspects, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and Iran's ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, Hadi Soleimanpour.
The warrants are for "crimes against life and health" and "hooliganism/vandalism/damage." In Mughniyah's case, prosecutors added the offense "crimes involving the use of weapons/explosives."
In a lengthy report, Nisman said the bombing decision "was made not by a small splinter group of extremely radical Islamic functionaries, but was instead a decision that was extensively discussed and was ultimately adopted by a consensus of the highest representatives of the Iranian government at the time."
It said Tehran used Hizballah, a group that had "evolved into a fundamental instrument for the realization of the Iranian foreign policy objectives." The suicide bomber was identified as a Lebanese Hizballah member.
The report asserted that a plausible key reason for the attack was Argentina's decision to terminate a nuclear materials and technology supply agreement concluded several years earlier.
Argentina asked Interpol to issue "red notices" for the nine suspects. On the advice of the organization's legal affairs office, its executive committee last March withdrew warrants against Rafsanjani, Velayati and Soleimanpour, but upheld the others.
Iran disputed the "red notice" decision, thus necessitating a vote by the full general assembly, which did so at a meeting in Morocco earlier this month.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, applauded the Interpol decision, saying in a letter to Kirchner that it "is a precedent for the world in terms of how terrorism can be confronted by using the mechanism of international law. Argentina played a role model in this battle."
Tehran has accused Argentina of succumbing to pressure from the "Zionists" and the United States.
Last September, it warned that the Latin American country would be siding with Iran's enemies if Kirchner mentioned the dispute when addressing the annual U.N. General Assembly session in New York.
The left-leaning, outgoing president -- no supporter of U.S. foreign policy -- went ahead and raised the issue at the U.N., drawing fresh criticism from Iran.
Following the Interpol decision, Tehran in a tit-for-tat move demanded that Argentina arrest five citizens, including a former interior minister, the former head of AMIA, a former judge and two prosecutors. It accused the five of "acting against Iran's national security, bribing Iran's opponents outside the country to obtain false statements from them, and media propaganda against the Islamic Republic."
After Buenos Aires rejected the request, Iran's official Irna news agency said the country's judiciary was not cooperating because it was "under Zionist influence."
An Interpol "red notice" is not an international arrest warrant, but it informs member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued by a judicial authority. It is Interpol's equivalent of a most-wanted list.
Interpol says many of its member countries "consider a red notice a valid request for provisional arrest, especially if they are linked to the requesting country via a bilateral extradition treaty."