EU diplomat: Dubai killing may harm EU-Israel ties
Emirates foreign affairs minister says deeply concerned that suspected al-Mabhouh assassins used expertly doctored passports of 'close allies'; two more fake Irish passports linked to hit squad, local officials say. EU official says affair may damage bloc's relations with Israel
A senior EU diplomat says Israel's suspected role in the slaying of a Hamas militant in Dubai and the killers' alleged use of forged EU passports will harm Israel's relations with the European bloc.
The official said the passport controversy "will be harmful for the way Israel is treated by the EU" since it comes on top of strong criticism over Israel's 2008 attack on Gaza.
The EU diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive topic Sunday, a day before the EU's 27 foreign ministers meet in Brussels. Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will also be in Brussels to see EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, among others.
Dubai police say at least 11 suspects in the Jan. 19 killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh used altered British, Irish, French and German passports.
Emirati officials claimed Sunday that at least two more fake Irish passports have been linked to the alleged hit squad and urged European investigators to launch full-scale probes into passport fraud.
The UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the Emirates is deeply concerned that the suspected assassins used expertly doctored passports from nations that don't require advance UAE visas, allowing them to enter the country without scrutiny.
On Sunday, Emirati officials close to the investigation said at least two more suspects in the slaying entered the Emirates with fraudulent Irish passports.
They also said some of the 18 suspects visited the Gulf city-state for a reconnaissance mission at least once before the Jan. 19 killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The latest allegations bring the number of fake passports allegedly tied to the killing to 13 - six British, five Irish, one French and one German.
"The UAE is deeply concerned by the fact that passports of close allies, whose nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers, were illegally used to commit this crime," Gargash said in a statement, carried by the Emirates' state-run news agency WAM on Sunday.
'Close contact with European governments'
Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has blamed Israel's Mossad spy agency for al-Mabhouh's killing. Two Palestinians are in custody and three suspects remain unidentified.
On Sunday, Abu Dhabi-based Al Ittihad newspaper quoted Tamim as saying that "someone from al-Mabhouh's circle" leaked information on his travel plans to the assassins, a claim Hamas' Gaza-based officials denied Sunday.
Tamim's allegations could not be immediately confirmed, but on Saturday Hamas legislator Salah Bardawil said that al-Mabhouh unwittingly exposed himself to attack by talking about his trip over the phone and booking his hotel reservations over the Internet, moves that would make him easily traceable if he were already under surveillance.
On Sunday, the Emirates' top diplomat stepped up pressure on the country's European allies to probe how fraudulent passports had been used by a hit squad accused of killing al-Mabhouh.
"The abuse of passports poses a global threat, affecting both countries' national security as well as the personal security of travelers," the Emirates' Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan was quoted saying in a statement.
The statement provided no updates on the investigation, but said the Emirates' and Dubai authorities continue to scrutinize events that led to al-Mabhouh's slaying and its aftermath. But it said authorities also remain in "close contact with the concerned European governments," listing the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany and Austria.
Earlier this week Tamim told reporters in Dubai that the alleged assassins used foreign cell phone cards to avoid being traced while calling a "command center" in Austria.