W House brands Iran, Hezbollah as terror 'nexus'

Published: Sunday, November 12, 2006, 21:22 [IST]

WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) The White House branded Iran and Hezbollah as a ''global nexus of terrorism'' and applauded an Argentine court for seeking the arrest of former Iranian officials in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.

In the Bush administration's latest rhetorical assault on Iran, White House spokesman Tony Snow issued a statement saying the Islamic republic was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians as the world's ''leading state sponsor of terrorism.'' It gave no specifics.

The statement yesterday also said Tehran's financial and military support for Hezbollah had allowed the Lebanese Shi'ite militant organization to ''perpetuate violence throughout the world.'' ''Hezbollah and Iran remain a dangerous, global nexus of terrorism,'' Snow said in the statement.

Earlier this month, the White House accused Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of plotting to topple the Lebanese government, which the Bush administration has held up as an example of emerging democracy in the Middle East.

Yesterday's statement came hours after five pro-Syrian Shi'ite Muslim ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, resigned from Lebanon's Cabinet following the collapse of all-party talks to consider a greater government say for Shi'ite parties.

The United States is not keen to see Hezbollah exert more influence over the Lebanese government.

The White House statement also applauded an Argentine judge who ordered arrest warrants last Thursday for former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight others in the July 18, 1994, bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.

Argentine prosecutors have formally accused the Iranian government of masterminding the attack that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200. Rafsanjani was president at the time.

Tehran has denied any involvement in the blast that leveled the seven-story Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building, a symbol of the country's Jewish community -- Latin America's largest.

Several former Rafsanjani aides were being sought as well as a former Hezbollah foreign security chief.

''We call on all governments to support the Argentine government,'' the White House said. ''These terrorists and their state sponsors must be made to realize they cannot hide from justice.'' Argentine prosecutors have said the attack could have been tied to Argentina's decision to stop providing Iran with nuclear technology and materials.

Western nations accuse Iran of trying secretly to build an atomic arsenal, but Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium and wants only to generate electricity.

The UN Security Council is trying to reach agreement on sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to halt uranium enrichment as demanded in a July council resolution.

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