A federal judge in Argentina says he is seeking the arrest of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, and eight others in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre that killed 85 people.
A special prosecutor sought the order for Rafsanjani's "international capture" on Thursday, alleging that the worst terrorist attack ever on Argentine soil was orchestrated by leaders of the Iranian government.
Rafsanjani was Iran's president between 1989 and 1997 and is now the head of the Expediency Council.
Speaking with a group of local journalists at his offices in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral said he had ordered the "international capture" of Rafsanjani and eight others and was seeking the help of Interpol in his effort.
Although he did not specify whether he had already issued arrest warrants, he said he also was issuing an "international exhortation" to Iran to comply with his request, adding he had received "serious" evidence warranting detentions of the nine.
"How Interpol or the Iranian state evaluates this request is beyond my jurisdiction," added Canicoba Corral, cautioning that he expected the "diplomatic process will take a long time."
Separately, Iran's leading diplomatic envoy in Buenos Aires, told the AP that his government would oppose efforts to detain Rafsanjani and other Iranian nationals.
Mohsen Baharvand, charge d'affaires for Iran in Argentina, called the case politically motivated and added Iranian officials would seek a meeting with Interpol officials challenging the judge's order.
The bombing of the Jewish
cultural centre killed 85 people
"We reject and condemn this accusation," said Baharvand, charging the Argentine case was "fraught with irregularities" and driven by US and Israeli interests.
The July 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires killed 85 people and injured more than 200 others.
Investigators say an explosives-packed van was driven up to the building and detonated.
Iran's government has vehemently denied any involvement in the attack following repeated accusations by the Jewish community and other leaders in Buenos Aires.
Alberto Nisman, the lead prosecutor, said last month that the decision to attack the centre "was undertaken in 1993 by the highest authorities" of the Iranian government at the time, and that the actual attack was entrusted to Hezbollah.
Nisman also asked Canicoba Corral to detain several other former Iranian officials, including former intelligence chief Ali Fallahijan, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, two former commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, two former Iranian diplomats and a former Lebanese Hezbollah security chief for external affairs.
Canicoba Corral confirmed he was seeking those men and also one Iranian not requested last month by the prosecutors: the former ambassador to Buenos Aires, Hadi Soleimanpour.
An earlier explosion, in March 1992, destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people, in a case that has also been blamed on Hezbollah.