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Lebanon denies extradition reports

By
DALAL SAOUD

BEIRUT, July 28 -- Lebanese Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz on Thursday denied reports that Argentina asked Lebanon to hand over a former leader of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah whom it suspected of being behind the July 18 Buenos Aires bombing. 'Such information is untrue, I mean the Argentinian request to hand over anyone,' Boueiz told reporters. He was referring to a report Thursday by the Lebanese newspaper Ad Diyar saying that Argentinian President Carlos Menem officially requested the extradition of Sobhi Tofaili for interrogation on his alleged involvement in the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina that killed 95 people. Menem accused Tofaili of being the leader of Ansar Allah, the group which last week claimed responsibility for the bombing attack in a statement distributed in southern Lebanon. Ansar Allah, or Followers of God, a tiny Palestinian Muslim fundamentalist group headed by Jamal Suleiman, denied any link with the statement and said it could be the work of Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Ad Diyar quoted a well-informed source as saying that the request was made by the Argentinian Foreign Ministry to Lebanon's Ambassador Riad Al Kantar when he was summoned to discuss the blast. The source said Argentina threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Lebanon if it doesn't deliver Tofaili. Boueiz affirmed his country's readiness to cooperate with the Argentinian authorities but 'based on a judicial file that includes facts and not on some mysterious statement which source is unknown and which was later denied.'

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The Lebanese Minister reiterated a condemnation of 'any kind of violence targeting civilians' around the world and said the Ansar Allah group does not exist in Lebanon. A Foreign Ministry source explained that there was no official Argentinian request regarding Tofaili 'and if any such demand is to be made it should be through the Interpol (international police) and not the diplomatic channels.' (written by dalal saoud in beirut)

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