POLITICS

In 4-hour speech, Argentine president takes aim at critics, Israel, dead prosecutor

Soldiers of the Granaderos de San Martin regiment stand guard below a giant portrait of Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez hanging outside Congress during the inauguration of the 2015 legislative year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, March 1, 2015. In her speech to Congress, Fernandez said prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had accused her of a criminal cover-up, had also praised her. Nisman was found dead Jan. 18, hours before he was to meet legislators to elaborate on his allegations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Soldiers of the Granaderos de San Martin regiment stand guard below a giant portrait of Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez hanging outside Congress during the inauguration of the 2015 legislative year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, March 1, 2015. In her speech to Congress, Fernandez said prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had accused her of a criminal cover-up, had also praised her. Nisman was found dead Jan. 18, hours before he was to meet legislators to elaborate on his allegations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said Sunday the prosecutor who had accused her of a criminal cover-up had also praised her, characterizing the late Alberto Nisman's actions as contradictory in a sharply worded speech that included a rebuke of Israel over the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.

Fernández said documents had been found in Nisman's safe, one written in December and the other in January. She said in both he spoke favorably of the president's speeches to the United Nations aimed at getting justice for the attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, which killed 85 people.

She said that was contradictory to his allegations that she and other top officials in her administration had orchestrated a cover-up with Iran to shield officials allegedly responsible in a grain-for-oil deal. Fernández has rejected the allegations and Iran has long denied involvement in the bombing.

"Which Nisman do I go with?" she said. "With the one who accused us of a cover-up or the one who addressed me, acknowledging all we had done" to bring justice?

Nisman was found dead Jan. 18, the day before he was to detail his allegations against Fernández to Congress. Authorities are investigating whether Nisman committed suicide or was killed.

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The case has rocked Argentina, creating a scandal that Fernández's administration has struggled to confront. The president, constitutionally barred from running in October elections, got a boost last week when a federal judge threw out the case that Nisman had been building, saying it wasn't solid enough to open an investigation.

Fernández, known for fiery, populist rhetoric, made the comments about the documents at the end of her nearly four-hour speech. When opposition legislators held signs saying "Open the Archives!" on the community center bombing, she launched into a vigorous defense of all she had to bring justice in the case.

The bombing had become a "chessboard of national and international politics," she said.

In particular, she took aim at Israel, saying the country had shown tremendous interest in getting justice for the community center bombing but not in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29.

Nobody has been convicted in either attack.

"Why does the state of Israel demand (justice) for AMIA," she said, referring to the Spanish acronym of the community center, "and not for the blowing up of their own embassy?"

It wasn't clear what, if anything, Fernández was implying. The president often makes vague accusations that other nations are meddling in Argentina's affairs.

In January 2014, Itzhak Aviran, the former Israeli ambassador to Argentina, reportedly told a Jewish news agency that "most of the guilty (for the Jewish community center attack) are in the other world, and we did that." The comments were immediately denied by the Israeli government. At the time, Nisman, who for 10 years headed up the investigation into the bombing, said he would summons Aviran.

On Sunday, Fernández said she would formally request that Israel send Aviran to Argentina to testify so "Argentines can at least know the perpetrators" of the community center attack.

A message sent to the Israeli embassy's press office late Sunday seeking comment was not immediately answered.

In the documents, Fernández said Nisman asked that she demand that the U.N. Security Council order the extradition of the Iranians allegedly responsible. She said the U.N. wouldn't likely agree, especially when the United States was negotiating with Iran about the future of its nuclear program.

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