Britain, Ireland, France and Germany demand explanations as Interpol takes up case of Hamas commader's murder in Dubai.
Israel's silence sparks fury in Europe
LONDON // The governments of European countries whose passports were used by suspects in the murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh were left frustrated and furious yesterday by Israel's secrecy over the incident. In Britain, the Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor, was invited to the Foreign Office amid mounting suspicion that a hit squad from Mossad - his country's secret service - used the phony documents in the assassination of the leading Hamas figure in Dubai last month.
David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, said he "hoped and expected" full co-operation from Tel Aviv in uncovering who was behind the "outrage". But Mr Prosor and Dr Zion Evrony, his counterpart in Dublin who was summoned by Ireland's department of foreign affairs over the use of three Irish passports, denied all knowledge of the use of the fake documents. After an hour-long meeting with the head of the Irish diplomatic service, Dr Evrony said: "I told him I don't know anything about the event. Beyond that, it is not customary to share the content of diplomatic meetings."
Following his 20-minute meeting with Sir Peter Ricketts, the head of the British diplomatic service, Mr Prosor said: "I was unable to add additional information." European governments were hoping for more - while expecting little else - from the Israelis, who have a policy of never confirming or denying Mossad operations. The killers used fake British, Irish, French and German passports. For the first time, France signalled its dissatisfaction with Israel. "We are demanding explanations from the Israeli embassy in France of the circumstances of the use of a false French passport in the killing of a Hamas member in Dubai," said a spokesman for the French foreign ministry.
The German government said its Middle East envoy, Andreas Michaelis, had met an official from the Israeli embassy in Berlin and had asked Israel to check whether it could shed light on the case. Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, reiterated his determination to get to the truth. "We have got to know what happened to British passports, it's as simple as that," he said. "An investigation has got to take place before any conclusions are drawn."
Interpol issued red notices for all 11 suspects in the case. A red notice requests the arrest of a person with a view to extradition. Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of Dubai Police, said the notices were issued "based on evidence we provided". Interpol said it had "made public the photos and names fraudulently used on the passports to limit the ability of accused murderers from using the same false passports".
In Britain and Ireland, there was anger that the identities of their citizens had been stolen. All six of the "cloned" Britons live in Israel. The two Irish men and one woman still live in Ireland. "We are determined to get to the bottom of this," Mr Miliband said. "We wanted to give Israel every opportunity to share with us what it knows about this incident. "We hope and expect they will co-operate fully with the investigation that will be undertaken by the Serious Organised Crime Agency."
Micheal Martin, the Irish foreign affairs minister, said police in Ireland, Britain, France and Germany were co-operating in a Europe-wide investigation. Yesterday, the probe spread to Austria when it emerged that phone numbers or SIM cards from that country were used to organise the killing. Mr Martin said: "It is an extremely serious incident and puts the security of Irish citizens at risk." William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary for Britain's Conservative Party, said he had written to Mr Miliband, demanding to know when the British government was told that UK passports had been used by the killers.
The foreign office has said it was informed on Monday. But Mr Hague said: "There have been reports in Dubai that British ministers were alerted last month. We need to know how long they knew and what action they took." The Irish government, which originally said the fake Irish passports bore the wrong serial numbers, said yesterday that the numbers corresponded to real people. email@example.com
* With additional reporting by Wafa Issa