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Britain is expelling a diplomat from the Israeli embassy in London. The British government says it has concluded that Israel was responsible for forging British passports. The documents were among those used by the suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai.
NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.
ROB GIFFORD: Police in Dubai had announced last month that 12 people travelling on British passports were part of an alleged hit squad who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January. Now, after an investigation by Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency, the government has concluded that Israel was behind the cloning of the passports.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband made a statement in the House of Commons today, using unusually strong words.
Mr. DAVID MILIBAND (British Foreign Secretary): 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. We have concluded that 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.
GIFFORD: Miliband was careful not to accuse Israel of being responsible for the killing of Mabhouh in Dubai, but he said the illicit cloning of the passports of UK citizens by a country which is a friend of Britain only added insult to injury. He said Britain was expelling one Israeli diplomat in response. The Israeli government has neither confirmed nor denied a role in the killing of Mabhouh. Yesterday, the Israeli ambassador in London, Ron Prosor, was summoned to the foreign office. And today, he made a short statement to the press.
Ambassador RON PROSOR (Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain): The relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom is of mutual importance, hence we are disappointed by the British government's decision.
GIFFORD: Of the 27 suspects named by the authorities in Dubai, several used fraudulent Irish, French, German and Australian passports. Fifteen of the names used by the suspected killers matched those of Israeli citizens with duel nationality. The French and German governments said they do not plan to take similar action to the British, and many analysts, like Robert Lowe of the Middle East program at London think tank Chatham House, says Israel is unlikely to take the issue further.
Mr. ROBERT LOWE (Middle East Program, Chatham House): It's probably unlikely that they would respond in kind by expelling UK diplomats, and if only because - I doubt that that would be in Israel's interests, and that I think they'd prefer that this whole fuss died down, not least when they're going through a rocky patch also with the United States.
GIFFORD: Foreign Secretary Miliband also demanded formal assurances such an act would never happen again. And in a highly unusual step, he advised British citizens that their identity details could be at risk if they visit Israel.
Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.
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