Bolivia expels visiting Iranian minister
Bolivia expelled Iran's visiting defence minister Tuesday to avoid a diplomatic conflict with Argentina, which seeks to prosecute him for a fatal bombing attack in 1994, dpa reported.
Bolivia's defence ministry had invited Ahmad Vahidi to attend a military ceremony, but the government later said it was done without the awareness of an Interpol arrest warrant for the Iranian official.
"As a result of this lamentable occurrence, I must inform you that the government of Bolivia has taken the corresponding measures to have Ahmad Vahidi immediately leave Bolivian territory," Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said in a letter to his Argentine counterpart.
Argentina accuses Vahidi of being behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured more than 300. The international warrant was issued in 2007.
"Unfortunately, (the defence ministry) did not know about the background of the case," he said, and did not coordinate the invitation with the rest of the government.
The administration of Bolivian President Evo Morales shares close ties with Argentina. The Jewish communities in both countries had protested the visit, calling it a provocation.
Choquehuanca said no disrespect was intended in the "regrettable incident."
In a brief contact with reporters after the military ceremony in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, Vahidi said Iran was ready to provide military coordination to Bolivia if asked.
But he discarded the possibility of Iran installing military bases in Bolivia or Venezuela, a close ally of Tehran.