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EU to censure Israel after Dubai killing

Brussels, February 22, 2010

European Union foreign ministers will condemn assassinations and the use of forged passports on Monday to censure Israel after the killing of a Palestinian militant in Dubai.

Diplomatic sources said the ministers may mention Israel only briefly but their statement at a meeting in Brussels was intended to show the EU's disapproval of last month's assassination of the Hamas commander.

Dubai authorities say the assassins travelled on forged British, Irish, French and German passports and were sent by Israel's spy agency Mossad.

Israel has declined to confirm or deny any role in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whom the Islamic militant group has said was involved in smuggling weapons into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

"It will be quite a strong statement ... It will make reference to 'extra-judicial killing' and the fact that these passports were used," one of the sources said.

"It doesn't matter if (the statement) doesn't mention Israel, the message will be clear. How many countries can it be referring to?"

France, Germany, Ireland and Britain have helped to draft the statement and it will be put to the rest of the EU foreign ministers for approval, the sources said.

The statement will increase diplomatic pressure on Israel but is unlikely to have any long-term repercussions for EU-Israeli ties, diplomats say. Israeli officials have also played down the possibility of a full-blown crisis in relations.

"It is more of a caution, and of course we would at the same time like to emphasise the integrity and security of European passports," a European diplomat said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was due to meet a number of EU foreign ministers on the sidelines of Monday's meeting.

Officials said Iran's nuclear programme was the main item on his agenda. But he was expected to face questions on the passport issue, particularly from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.

EU presidency concerned by forged passports

France and Germany have also asked Israel for an explanation, but the French and German foreign ministers were not scheduled to attend Monday's foreign ministers' meeting.

Britain wants Israel to cooperate fully as it carries out its own investigation into how as many as six British passports could have been forged and used by assassins to enter Dubai before killing Mabhouh in a hotel room on January 19.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country holds the EU presidency until the end of June, said the falsification of the documents was a problem for all EU states.

"We're extremely concerned that a passport, which is a very rigorous and legal document, can be used in a different manner and for a different purpose," he told reporters in Brussels.

"We're going to discuss it and I hope we will issue a statement expressing our concern."

Keeping its policy of ambiguity on intelligence issues, Israel has said there is no proof that it killed Mabhouh, who was responsible for running arms shipments to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is shunned by the West for rejecting its calls to recognise Israel and renounce violence.

Israel's deputy prime minister said on Sunday there was more to the incident than met the eye and that Israel's ties with Europe were good.

Dubai police say they are virtually certain Israeli agents carried out the killing and have released the identities of 11 people using European passports who they say were involved.

Six Britons with the same names of members of the alleged hit team live in Israel and said they were victims of identity theft. The information raised speculation that the Mossad copied their passports and amended the documents to allow the assassins to enter the Emirate, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel. – Reuters




Tags: Dubai | Israel | Brussels | European Union | killing | Passports | censure |

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