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Britain expels Isaraeli diplomat over dubai passport row

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(source: BBC News)

The UK is to expel an Israeli diplomat over 12 forged British passports used in the murder of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the Commons there were "compelling reasons" to believe Israel was responsible for the passport "misuse". He said: "The government takes this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable." Israel’s ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, said he was "disappointed".

Strong message He said: "The relationship between Israel and the UK is of mutual importance, hence we are disappointed by the… decision."Israel has said there is no proof it was behind the killing at a Dubai hotel, and an official confirmed there would be no tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsion. But Mr Milband said it was "highly likely" the Israeli secret service Mossad was involved and the fact that Israel was a close ally added "insult to injury".He said he had evidence that genuine passports belonging to UK citizens had been copied after being handed over for inspection to "individuals linked to Israel". "Given that this was a very sophisticated operation, in which high-quality forgeries were made, the government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service," he said. "We have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports." The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen said the expulsion sent a "very clear message" of British disapproval. "It is a very big step for a government like the British to expel one of the diplomats belonging to one of its important allies," he said. The British government has stopped short of accusing Israel of the murder, but Mr Miliband had previously demanded full co-operation with its investigation into how the passports were obtained. It is believed 12 fake British passports were used in the plot to murder Mr Mabhouh – the founder of Hamas's military wing – in his hotel room in Dubai on 19 January. The names and details on the UK passports used by eight of the 12 suspects belonged to British-Israeli citizens living in Israel – all of whom have denied involvement in Mr al-Mabhouh's murder. Their passports had been copied and new photographs inserted. The foreign secretary said officers from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) had travelled to Israel to speak to the passport holders and had had concluded there was proof of Israeli involvement with passport cloning. Mr Miliband said: "Soca were drawn to the conclusion that the passports used were copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries." A spokesman for the Palestinian Hamas group said it welcomed the decision to expel the diplomat but wanted international efforts to track down the killers stepped up. Former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, said for a diplomat to be expelled, Israel must have had "some hand" in the matter, or had been unwilling to co-operate with Soca. He told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "It is very serious indeed… there can't be a greater violation of trust for one ally to abuse the passports of another ally." Downing Street confirmed that the head of Britain's diplomatic service, Peter Ricketts, met Israel's ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, on Monday. Dubai police have used CCTV footage to identify 27 alleged members of the team that tracked and killed Mr Mabhouh. Other members of the hit squad travelled on fake Irish, French and Australian travel documents, Dubai police said. Dubai officials said they were "99% certain" that agents from Mossad were behind the killing but Israel has said there is no proof its agents were involved. Following his death, Mr Mabhouh's family said doctors who had examined him determined he had died after receiving a massive electric shock to the head. They also found evidence that he had been strangled. Blood samples sent to a French laboratory confirmed he was killed by electric shock, after which the body was sent to Syria.