No tit-for-tat for British expulsion: Israel

15Jan

Israel will not retaliate over Britain’s expulsion of one of its diplomats for the alleged misuse of British passports in the assassination of a top Palestinian militant, a senior official said.

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“We have no intention of expelling a British diplomat in response to London’s decision,” the official said, asking not to be identified.

“Our priority is to calm things down.”

Earlier, Britain said it was kicking out an Israeli diplomat over the “intolerable” use of fake British passports in the killing of a Hamas chief, in a sharp escalation of tension over the murder.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there were “compelling reasons” to suggest that Israel was to blame for the forgeries used by the team which killed Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai in January.

“I’ve asked that a member of the embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair and this is taking place,” he told politicians.

“There are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports … The government takes this matter extremely seriously.ch misuse of British passports is intolerable,” he said.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took issue with Britain’s assertion that it had proof of Israeli responsibility. “No proof of Israeli involvement in this affair has been provided to us,” Lieberman said in a statement, adding that he nevertheless wanted to maintain cordial relations with Britain.

“We have several sorts of sensitive relationships with this country, so we are very disappointed by the British decision.”

Britain’s top diplomat met Lieberman in Brussels on Monday and asked for a formal pledge that in future “the state of Israel would never be party to the misuse of British passports in such a way,” he said.

Relations between Britain and Israel were strained before the passport row, notably after a London court issued an arrest warrant for Israeli former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Livni reportedly cancelled a trip to Britain in December for fear of being arrested under the warrant, issued over her role in Israel’s 22-day war against the Hamas-rule Gaza Strip launched at the end of 2008.

Also on Tuesday, a French prosecutor announced an investigation into the use of four fake French passports in the Hamas hit.

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