Buenos Aires (CNSNews.com) - Arab and Latin American foreign ministers ended a gathering here Thursday with a declaration reiterating support for the right to "resist foreign occupation." Jewish groups are concerned that the phrase could be seen as sympathizing with terrorism.
The Spanish-language text said the representatives of 34 nations from the two regions reaffirmed their opposition to "illegal foreign occupation" and acknowledged the right to resist it.
References to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict immediately followed the part about "illegal foreign occupation," making the context clear.
The declaration also said the countries "condemn terrorism in all its forms and expressions and reject any links between terror and any nation or religion, ethnic group or specific culture."
The two-day meeting was held in preparation for a Summit of South American and Arab Countries (ASPA), to be held in Qatar later this year.
Earlier, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), an international Jewish human rights group, urged the Argentinean government to ensure that this week's deliberations ended with a strong denunciation of terrorism.
In the light of Argentina's own experience with terrorism, the host country was in a unique position to do so, SWC international relations director Shimon Samuels and Latin American representative Sergio Widder said in a letter to Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana.
They recalled that at the last ASPA summit in Brasilia in 2005, the closing declaration had "included a paragraph that was widely questioned, as its ambiguous text could be interpreted as a support for terrorist activities."
The paragraph referred to was the same as the one now included in the Buenos Aires document.
In their letter to Taiana, Samuels and Widder called Argentina "a leader in the fight against and prevention of terrorism."
They cited a September 2007 speech at the U.N. General Assembly by (now former) President Nestor Kirchner, in which he criticized Iran for not cooperating with an investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Mutual Aid Jewish Organization (AMIA) community center.
Argentinian prosecutors in 2006 formally accused Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hizballah, of carrying out the attack, which cost 85 lives. Search warrants were issued for five senior Iranians and for Imad Mughniyah, the Hizballah terrorist leader killed in an explosion in Syria last week.
Mughniyah was also suspected of responsibility for another bombing in Buenos Aires, targeting the Israeli Embassy in 1992. Twenty-nine people were killed in that blast.
Following the terrorist's death and threats by Hizballah to retaliate by attacking Jewish targets, Argentina stepped up security at Jewish centers throughout the nation.
/lang3082 AMIA secretary-general Edgardo Gorenberg told the AJN Jewish news agency that the security benefited all Argentineans, "because let's remember that terrorism is called that because it makes no distinction" among victims.
Miguel Angel Toma, a former director of the Argentine Intelligence Agency SIDE, who was involved in investigations into the bombings, warned this week that the country may face a third terrorist attack.
He said in a statement released to the media that Iranian intelligence agencies had determined potential Jewish targets in Argentina as early as 1985.
"The attacks against the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA building, where Mugniyah was an important participant, are a proof of it, and of the interaction between Hizballah and Iran to carry them out," Toma said.
The foreign ministers' meeting that ended Thursday also discussed increased cooperation and trade between the Arab states and Latin America, and the need for "multilateralism" in the international community and reform of the U.N.
In a reference to unresolved disputes between the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and U.S. oil companies, the ministers condemned what they described as any "intimidating action" against Venezuela "that may undermine its economic and social development."
"States have the sovereign right to develop their resources in accordance to their own laws and development policies," they said.
South American countries represented at the meeting included Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, while Arab nations attending included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
Families of Bombing Victims Question Wanted Terrorist's Presence in Syria (Feb. 15, 2008)
Arabs, Latin Americans Find Common Ground (May 12, 2005)
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