Iran deplores US stand over new defence minister

Iran deplores US stand over new defence minister

Iran on Sunday deplored Washington's stand over Tehran's controversial new defence minister, who is wanted by Argentina in connection with a deadly 1994 bombing against a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, AFP reported.

Washington called the appointment of Ahmad Vahidi a "step backward" for Iran after MPs rallied behind him in a confidence vote on Thursday.

Vahidi was approved as defence minister in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government despite Argentina triggering a global outcry against his nomination.

On Sunday, Tehran hit back at the United States.

"This attitude shows that America does not believe in democracy in other countries," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi was quoted by state media as saying.

"We deplore America's stand in this case, and we think America had better not fall into the deceptive trap of global Zionism which spearheads terrorism," he said of the Islamic republic's arch-foe Israel.

"We advise the US government to respect Iran and the choice of its MPs and correct its position."

Vahidi is wanted by Argentina in connection with a July 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 300.

The explosion levelled the seven-floor Argentine Jewish Mutual Association building in an attack for which no one has ever been convicted.

Ghashghavi dismissed Argentina's protests.

"Argentine officials can make any claims they like, but for the past 15 years they have been unable to present one valid and convincing reason for Iranian involvement" in the attack.

"Although several other top Iranian officials were accused along with Vahidi, the charges were so baseless that no fair lawyer would accept them."

In 2007, Argentina issued arrest warrants for, among others, Iran's then president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, and Vahidi, who at the time of the bombing headed Al Quds, a Revolutionary Guard Corps branch that operates overseas.

Interpol refused to accept the arrest warrant for Rafsanjani, but it did issue international arrest orders for Vahidi and several others.

They included ex-intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai -- a defeated candidate in the June presidential election -- and two former diplomats at Iran's Buenos Aires embassy.

Since his approval by lawmakers on Thursday, Vahidi has been firing verbal salvos at Israel.

On Sunday, he said in a statement carried by most Iranian news agencies that his appointment "nullifies the wave of propaganda and psychological war started by the Zionists."

On Thursday, soon after being approved by MPs with the highest number of votes secured by any Ahmadinejad cabinet nominee, Vahidi told AFP that parliament's decision was a "decisive slap to Israel."

Of the 286 MPs who cast their ballots in the confidence motion, 227 voted for him.

Vahidi was deputy defence minister during Ahmadinejad's first four-year term and also held the same post under reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who was succeeded by Ahmadinejad in 2005.

Iran does not recognise Israel, and Ahmadinejad said during his first term that the Jewish state is doomed to be "wiped off the map." He further angered the global community by calling the Holocaust a "myth."

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