Argentina's President to disband intelligence service after prosecutor's suspicious death

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Argentina President Cristina Kirchner on Monday said that she will disband Argentina's intelligence service after a prosecutor was found dead just hours before he was to make explosive allegations against her.

Mr Alberto Nisman, 51, was found in his Buenos Aires home with a gunshot to the head on Jan 18, the day before he was to go before a congressional hearing to accuse Ms Kirchner of obstructing his investigation into a 1994 bombing at a Jewish charities federation office.

She denies the claims and says Mr Nisman's death - which initially was suspected suicide - was a plot to discredit her.

Ms Kirchner, who is scrambling to protect her record and legacy, said on Monday: "The plan is to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat, and create a Federal Intelligence Agency."

The leadership of the agency will be chosen by the president but subject to Senate approval.

Ms Kirchner had removed the leadership of the current intelligence service as recently as last month.

She said she would send her intelligence system reform Bill to Congress before she leaves for China next week, and swiftly scheduled special congressional sessions for it to be taken up.

The 1994 attack, which killed 85 people, has never been solved.

Mr Nisman had accused Ms Kirchner and her foreign minister Hector Timerman of shielding Iranian officials implicated in the bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association.

After his death, Ms Kirchner suggested Mr Nisman had been manipulated by former intelligence agents who then killed him to smear her. Ms Kirchner has offered no evidence to support her theory, and did not say who she thought was behind Mr Nisman's death.

But aides in recent days have pointed to former intelligence officials who were recently fired, including the former chief of operations of the Intelligence Secretariate, Antonio Stiusso, who worked closely with Mr Nisman.

Investigators have said Mr Nisman's death appeared to be suicide, but it has been classified as a "suspicious" death and homicide or an "induced suicide" have not been ruled out.

Mr Nisman contended that the government had agreed to swap grain for oil with Teheran in exchange for withdrawing "red notices" to Interpol seeking the arrests of the former and current Iranian officials accused in the case.

A top Kirchner aide meanwhile offered assurances that journalists enjoy "full security" in Argentina, after a reporter who revealed the Mr Nisman death fled to Israel saying he feared for his safety.

Mr Damian Pachter left Argentina last Saturday, saying he had received threats and was being followed.

"In Argentina, there is full security for all journalists," Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said.

"There is no obstacle for any journalist to express whatever he thinks."

Mr Pachter, a journalist for the English-language Buenos Aires Herald who holds dual Argentine-Israeli citizenship, told colleagues his phones had been tapped.

In a column published by Israel's Haaretz daily titled "Why I fled Argentina after breaking the story of Alberto Nisman's death", Mr Pachter recounted the intimidation that led him to leave Argentina.

He also criticised Argentina's Telam national news agency and the Twitter account of the Casa Rosada presidential palace for publishing information about his plane tickets, which included a return date.

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