Britain Expels Israeli Diplomat Over Dubai Passport Matter


milibandBritain said today that it was kicking out an Israeli diplomat over the “intolerable” use of fake British passports in the killing of a Hamas chief, in a sharp escalation of tension over the murder.Israel’s ambassador to London said the Jewish state was “disappointed” by the decision.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there were “compelling reasons” to suggest that Israel was to blame for the forgeries used by the team which killed Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai in January.

“I’ve asked that a member of the embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair and this is taking place,” he told lawmakers.

“There are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports … The government takes this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable,” he said.

Miliband did not specify the seniority or role of the expelled diplomat, and rebuffed suggestions that the ambassador should have been thrown out. “I do not believe that would have been the right thing to do,” he said.

Hamas hailed the expulsion and said it hoped Israeli leaders would eventually be brought to trial over the case.

Britain first called in the Israeli ambassador to discuss the issue after Dubai police in February released photographs and names of European passport holders alleged to have been members of the hit squad.

The suspects used the identities of 12 people from Britain, as well as people from Ireland, France, Australia and Germany. Interpol has issued arrest notices for 27 suspects wanted by Dubai in connection with the killing.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman said the Israeli diplomat had technically been “asked to withdraw” from Britain, adding that he had been given two weeks to leave.

The announcement came after Israel’s ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, was called in to the Foreign Office on Monday and briefed on the results of an investigation by Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Speaking outside the Israeli embassy minutes after Miliband’s announcement Tuesday, Prosor said: “The relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom is of mutual importance.

“So we are disappointed by the British government’s decision.”

The Jewish state has said there is no proof of widespread allegations that its spy agency, Mossad, was behind the murder.

Miliband said the SOCA probe had established that 12 British passport holders identified by Dubai police were “wholly innocent victims of identity theft”.

The passports were copied “when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries”, he said.

“Given that this was a very sophisticated operation in which high-quality forgeries were made, the government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service,” he said.

The Foreign Office has amended its official travel advice for Israel, warning British visitors about the risk to their passports and identities, Miliband said.

Miliband met his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Brussels Monday and asked for a formal pledge that in future “the state of Israel would never be party to the misuse of British passports in such a way,” he said.

Relations between Britain and Israel were strained before the passport row, notably after a London court issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Livni reportedly cancelled a trip to Britain in December for fear of being arrested under the warrant, issued over her role in Israel’s 22-day war against the Hamas-rule Gaza Strip launched at the end of 2008.

Also today, a French prosecutor announced an investigation into the use of four fake French passports in the Hamas hit.

{France24/Noam Newscenter}