Australia expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai hit
Australian foreign minister says police investigation leaves no doubt Israeli intelligence services were behind forgery of four Australian passports used in assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Member of Israeli embassy in Canberra asked to be withdrawn within week
Australia's government said on Monday it had ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake passports in the assassination of a top Hamas militant in Dubai in January.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said a police investigation had left no doubt Israeli intelligence services had been behind the forgery of four Australian passports used by suspects in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room.
"These investigations and advice have left the government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports," Smith told Australia's parliament. "These are not the actions of a friend."
The Australian government ordered an inquiry into the fake passports by police and intelligence services, who visited Israel and found the four citizens involved had been innocent of any wrongdoing.
"No government can tolerate the abuse of its passports, especially by a foreign government," Smith said. "This is not what we expect from a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly and supportive relationship."
He said the government had asked that a member of Israel's Australian embassy in Canberra be withdrawn within a week.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy told Ynet that Israel has received an official message from the Australian government. "We regret the Australian move, which in our opinion does not conform to the kind of relations we have with Canberra and their importance," he said.
Australia's reaction echoes that of the United Kingdom, which in March expelled a diplomat in retaliation for the use of 12 fake British passports in the plot to kill Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Dubai authorities blame Israel's Mossad intelligence service for the January slaying.
In a new development, the United Arab Emirates on Monday issued an arrest warrant against a British man connected to the al-Mabhouh assassination. Christopher Lockwood, 62, who lives in Scotland, is the 33rd suspect in the case, and UAE authorities believe he used a genuine passport, and therefore he can be more easily located.
The Interpol added Lockwood to the list of wanted people on its website, and the British police believe he is currently staying in Europe.
Dubai authorities have given names of alleged members of the team that tracked and killed the Palestinian, and said they used fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports to enter and leave Dubai.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in February there was no evidence to link his country to the killing, which also prompted Britain to expel an Israeli in March.