Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:35 am (KSA) 21:35 pm (GMT)

EU condemns Dubai killing and passports theft

A footage from the hotel camera showing Mabhouh followed by two agents
A footage from the hotel camera showing Mabhouh followed by two agents

European Union foreign ministers condemned on Monday the use of forged European passports by assassins who killed a top Hamas figure in Dubai, but made no direct reference to Israel.

"We strongly condemn the use of fraudulent EU member states' passports and credit cards acquired through the theft of EU citizens' identities," the foreign ministers said in a statement drawn up during a meeting in Brussels

The EU also for the first time condemned the act of assassination in Dubai believed to be carried out by Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the culprits must be punished, stressing that such political assassinations "have no place in the 21st century."

Diplomatic sources said earlier on Monday that the statement was intended to censure Israel over its alleged involvement in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month. Israel has declined to confirm or deny any involvement.

Spain, which now presides the European bloc, earlier said the EU was "extremely concerned" at the use of European passports in the killing of a Hamas commander in Dubai.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was due to meet Moratinos and several fellow European foreign ministers in Brussels later on the day, seeking to reassure them over the use of British, Irish, French and German passports in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January.

European passports

 I intend ... to underline our deep concern about the fake use of passports in Dubai and to seek reassurance and clarification on this very serious issue 
Irish FM Micheal Martin

Lieberman will meet Britain's David Miliband and Ireland's Micheal Martin on the sidelines of a European Union foreign ministers' meeting, and both would want to know what role Israel may have played in the faking of passports and killing of a Hamas commander.

Maintaining its policy of ambiguity on sensitive issues such as political assassinations, Israel has refused to confirm or deny involvement in the Jan. 19 killing of Palestinian Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel room and the allegations of doctored documents.

Dubai police say they believe Israeli agents carried out the assassination and have released the identities of 11 people travelling on passports from Britain, Ireland, France and Germany who they say were involved.

Several of those people have denied any role or that they have ever visited Dubai, leading investigators to suggest that Mossad copied the passports and amended them to enable the assassins to enter the Emirate under false identities and kill Mabhouh.

Ireland's Martin said the issue was serious and he wanted an explanation. A spokeswoman for the Irish mission in Brussels confirmed that they would meet on Monday morning.

"I intend ... to underline our deep concern about the fake use of passports in Dubai and to seek reassurance and clarification on this very serious issue," Martin told the Irish Times on Friday.

Britain and Ireland called in the Israeli ambassadors last week to discuss the issue, but received little in the way of explanation. The ambassador in London, Ron Prosor, said he was "unable to assist" the British with more information.

Miliband has urged Israel to cooperate as Britain conducts its own investigation into the falsified documents and said he would discuss it with Lieberman on Monday. Lieberman said last week there was no reason to believe Mossad was involved.

Strained relations

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

Britain's relations with Israel have been strained by the threat of arrest for alleged war crimes faced by senior Israeli officials visiting Britain.

In December, Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to London after British media reported that a magistrate had issued a warrant for her arrest on war crimes charges over the war in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

A U.N. report found that Israeli troops and Palestinian Hamas militants had committed war crimes in the Gaza war in which up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Britain's government said it was considering curbing courts' powers to issue such warrants for the arrest of foreign officials.

France and Germany have also asked Israel for an explanation, but the French and German foreign ministers are not scheduled to attend Monday's EU meeting, and it is not clear whether Lieberman will meet their deputies.

While only four of the EU's 27 countries are linked to the affair, officials have suggested it may be brought up for discussion at the full foreign ministers' meeting, which would represent a substantial diplomatic escalation.

European Commission spokesmen last week repeatedly refused to comment on the issue, saying it was a "bilateral" question between Israel and the other countries. Bringing it up at the EU ministerial meeting would be inappropriate, they said.

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