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Argentina to Send 2 Warships to Gulf for Logistics

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The lower house of Congress, voting early Thursday after an emotional debate, authorized two Argentine warships in the Persian Gulf to provide logistic support--but no firepower--to military forces allied against Iraq.

Last week, the Senate also voted in favor of the logistic support, which is to include the transportation of supplies and help with communications.

Before the Chamber of Deputies’ 119-99 vote Thursday, at least 5,000 people gathered outside the Congress and demonstrated against participation in the war by Argentina, the only Latin American country that has sent forces to the gulf. It was the second time in less than a week that leftists organized a protest against President Carlos Saul Menem’s pro-allies policy.

Zulema Yoma, Menem’s estranged wife, is among those who oppose the policy.

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“Sending our soldiers to a war without principles is unjustifiable,” Yoma said in a statement published Thursday.

Both Menem and Yoma are of Syrian origin. He is Catholic and she is Muslim.

A major organization in Argentina’s Jewish community, the largest in Latin America, also issued a statement against Argentina’s role in the gulf. The Federation of Jewish Cultural Entities said the involvement “does not serve any of the Argentine people’s interests and compromises the future of the nation.”

Meanwhile, Argentina’s foreign minister accused the previous administration of having provided missile technology to Iraq. The minister, Domingo Cavallo, proposed that a congressional commission investigate what he said was a secret contract to sell technology for Argentina’s Condor II missile project to the Iraqis.

The opposition Radical Civic Union of former President Raul Alfonsin, Menem’s predecessor, has denied selling the technology. The Radicals voted in Congress against logistic support for the allies.

Menem sent the destroyer Almirante Brown and the missile frigate Spiro to the gulf, a journey of 12,000 nautical miles, to help enforce the economic blockade against Iraq after its Aug. 2 takeover of Kuwait. Last week, the outspoken Argentine president fueled controversy over the issue by declaring that “Argentina is at war,” but his administration did not ask Congress for authorization to participate directly in the fighting.

The government has adopted what the Argentine press describes as strict security measures to protect embassies and businesses of the United States and its gulf allies from any terrorist attack in Buenos Aires.


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