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BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Rodolfo Barra, the Argentine justice minister who resigned from the government after his involvement with an anti-Semitic group became public, has received a medal from President Carlos Menem as a "token of thanks" for his services.

At the start of a Cabinet meeting recently, Menem presented the medal to Barra, who, at the time of his resignation, had been overseeing the ongoing investigations of the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community headquarters. Barra was replaced by Deputy Justice Minister Elias Jassan, who is Jewish.

Barra belonged to the right-wing group UNES when he was a high school student, according to a story in the local weekly magazine Noticias.

UNES was a youth group affiliated with Tacuara, an organization responsible for hundreds of anti-Semitic actions, including attacks against synagogues, a violent riot in the Jewish neighborhood here and the murder of Alberto Alterman, a Jewish lawyer.

Barra then admitted to belonging to UNES, but denied that he was a Nazi or a racist. Noticias later reported that the minister graduated to the extremist group Patria Grande after his stint with UNES.

Turkey and Israel ink sister-city pact

ISTANBUL (JTA) — Tel Aviv and Izmir, Turkey, will reportedly sign an agreement to become sister cities.

Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo flew to Turkey on Monday to attend the signing ceremony for what would be the first Israeli-Turkish twin city arrangement, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Zvi Alpeleg, was quoted as saying that the relationship could prove important, given the recent rise to power of Turkey's Islamist Welfare Party.

Turkey and Israel have also stepped up military cooperation as well.