Bolivia Expels Iranian Minister Following Argentine Complaint

By Dialogo
June 02, 2011

On May 31, a surprise visit to Bolivia by Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi sparked diplomatic friction between Buenos Aires and La Paz and disputes within Evo Morales’s administration, which ended up expelling the official, who is accused of links to an attack in Argentina.

The abrupt end to Vahidi’s visit to the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, where he attended a military event presided over by Morales, was communicated in a letter by Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca to his Argentine counterpart Héctor Timerman, when the Bolivian media had only just confirmed the Iranian’s presence.

“I should make you aware that the Bolivian government has taken the appropriate steps to see to it that Mr. Ahmad Vahidi immediately leaves Bolivian territory, and in this way to clearly show that Bolivia does not desire to interfere in any proceedings that may exist with regard to said individual’s legal situation,” the missive said.

General Vahidi, who is the target of an international arrest warrant, left Bolivia at nightfall, when the letter from the Foreign Ministry was released in Buenos Aires, a Bolivian government source told Reuters.

The Iranian minister is charged with involvement in planning the 1994 attack on the headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), which left eighty-five dead.

Choquehuanca expressed “heartfelt apologies” to Argentina for the “unfortunate incident” and revealed discrepancies within the Bolivian administration upon explaining that the Iranian minister had been invited by the Defense Ministry, “which unfortunately was not familiar with (Vahidi’s) background.”

A spokesperson for the Bolivian Foreign Ministry considered the incident between the South American neighbors closed. “It was a private communication between the foreign ministers, through which the issue was resolved,” she affirmed to Reuters.