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Britain Refuses to Extradite Former Iranian Diplomat to Argentina - 2003-11-13

Britain has rejected a request to extradite a former Iranian diplomat to Argentina to stand trial as the accused mastermind of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people.

The British Home Office says there is not enough evidence to support the extradition of the former Iranian ambassador to Argentina, Hade Soleimanpour.

Officials say Home Secretary David Blunkett made the decision after a review of 6,000 pages of documentation compiled by Argentina in the case. A Home Office spokesman says Britain takes its international obligations seriously in combating terrorism, but there was not evidence to warrant further action.

Mr. Soleimanpour is now a free man and can continue his doctoral studies at the University of Durham in northeast England.

The former ambassador was arrested in August and would have faced a full court hearing on the extradition request on Thursday.

An Argentine judge issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Soleimanpour on charges that he masterminded the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history.

The Delegation of Argentine-Israeli Associations (DAIA) issued a statement deploring the British decision and expressing regret that there has been no progress toward bringing the perpetrators of the bombing to justice.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran, but Tehran had warned that relations with Britain would suffer if the former diplomat was not released.

British media linked gunfire around some British diplomatic facilities in Tehran in September to the Soleimanpour case. The shootings coincided with his appearance in a London court.