By Louis Charbonneau
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Israel's U.N. envoy on Friday praised Argentina for reinvigorating its investigation of a deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that Argentine authorities have blamed on Iran.
"I think they're re-energizing" their work on the case, Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters.
"In the past there was not a real motivation to check (the facts)," he said. "I see it differently today. One should give them credit for it. I see it differently today on the Argentinean side."
The bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building killed 85 people and injured hundreds of others. In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese in connection with the attack.
Tehran denied links to the bombing but offered talks with Argentina last July to start "shedding light" on the case.
The bombing virtually froze Argentina's relations with Iran, though the two countries recently have expressed a desire for better relations.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez told the U.N. General Assembly last September that Buenos Aires was ready to engage in dialogue with Iran.
Concerned about a possible warming of ties between Iran and Argentina, including a sharp increase in bilateral trade, Western and Israeli officials expressed concern that Buenos Aires was quietly reaching out to Tehran while they were seeking to isolate Iran over its nuclear program.
They also voiced concerns that Argentina might have lost its interest in pursuing investigations of the 1994 Jewish center attack, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people.
The Islamic Jihad Organization, believed to be linked to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the 1992 bombing.
For more than a decade Argentina appeared to do little to investigate the two attacks. But former President Nestor Kirchner vowed to reopen the cases when he took office in 2003, calling the failure to push the cases "a national disgrace."
Several years later former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was among those indicted by Argentine prosecutors for the 1994 bombing and sought by Interpol.
Fernandez, who is Kirchner's widow and was re-elected to a second term last year, and Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman were invited to visit Israel this year by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, Argentina's Jewish News Agency reported earlier this month.
Ayalon made the invitation during a visit to Argentina to mark the 20th anniversary of the Israeli embassy bombing, according to the news agency, which quoted him as saying the trip would deepen "the level of strategic and political dialogue between Argentina and Israel."
(Additional reporting by Helen Popper in Buenos Aires; Editing by Paul Simao)