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Switzerland Rejects Argentine Request in Bomb Probe - 2002-08-27

Swiss authorities have rejected Argentina's latest request to investigate claims that a former Argentine president received $10 million to cover up Iran's alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. But the Swiss have invited Argentine judges to clarify their request in person.

The Swiss justice ministry says Argentina's appeal failed to provide enough evidence from its investigation to support the request for assistance in the Menem case.

Argentine authorities allege that former President Carlos Menem received $10 million from Iran in return for denying Iranian involvement in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. The attack killed 85 people. Both Iran and Mr. Menem deny the charges.

Swiss officials call Argentina's allegations "vague." But Justice Ministry spokesman Falco Galli says the Swiss have sent a diplomatic note to Argentina, inviting the judges handling the case to come to Switzerland to clarify information necessary for a case to proceed.

"We are absolutely not closing the door," emphasized Mr. Galli. "We emphasize in our diplomatic note that we are willing to offer extensive judicial assistance and that we want to cooperate. But there are international standards and we need the necessary information to be able to grant legal assistance."

Swiss authorities are investigating Mr. Menem on a separate banking matter. Last October, they blocked bank accounts containing $10 million. Argentine judicial officials allege that money is linked to Mr. Menem and was received from selling weapons in defiance of U.N. arms embargoes.

Mr. Menem is running for a third term as Argentina's president. Last year, he spent six months under house arrest on arms trafficking charges.