A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been nominated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, to head the country’s defence ministry, despite being listed on Interpol’s wanted register for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre in Argentina.

Argentinian prosecutors joined Jewish groups last night in condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s decision to propose Ahmad Vahidi for the senior cabinet post.

Vahidi has been on an Interpol “red notice” since November 2007, in connection with the car bomb attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured 150 – the worst attack on a Jewish target outside Israel since the second world war.

Interpol’s red notices are alerts to its 187 member nations. They are not arrest warrants but are sometimes interpreted as a request for apprehending a suspect.

At the time of the attack Vahidi, who is currently Iran’s deputy defence minister, commanded a notorious unit of the Revolutionary Guards called the Quds Force. It is known for orchestrating Iran’s overseas operations including working alongside Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is accused of carrying out the Buenos Aires attack on the instigation of Iran.

Vahidi’s promotion, which was mooted on Wednesday, will be interpreted as the latest act of defiance of international opinion by Ahmadinejad, as he seeks to cement his hold on power after the fiercely disputed elections in June.

Iranian lawmakers have yet to ratify the 21-member cabinet. Fears have been voiced that his selections were based on their loyalty rather than experience.

At least four nominees for defence, interior, intelligence and oil minister had ties with the elite Revolutionary Guard, a powerful base of support for the president.

Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who led the investigation into the 1994 bombing, yesterday said Vahidi is accused of being “a key participant in the planning” of the attack. “It has been demonstrated that Vahidi participated in and approved of the decision to attack AMIA during a meeting in Iran on August 14, 1993. Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one,” he told the Associated Press.

Source: / theguardian /