February 18, 2010 / 12:56 PM / 10 years ago

UK urges Israel to cooperate in fake passport probe

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain urged Israel on Thursday to cooperate fully with its investigation into the apparent use of faked British passports by assassins suspected of killing a Hamas militant commander in Dubai last month.

Briton Paul Keeley from Nachsholim, Israel, whose identity has been allegedly stolen by a hit squad suspected of assassinating Hamas militant, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Channel 10 via Reuters TV

Israeli ambassador to London Ron Prosor met the head of Britain’s diplomatic service, Peter Ricketts, after being called to a meeting at the Foreign Office.

Hamas military official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in his luxury hotel room in January, and the Palestinian Islamist militant group has accused Israel of being behind the killing.

Forged British, Irish, German and French documents were used by 11 people named by the United Arab Emirates as suspects.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Ricketts had made clear to Prosor “how seriously we take any suggestion of fraudulent use of British passports. He also explained the concern we have for British passport holders in Israel”.

“The permanent secretary (Ricketts) said we wanted to give Israel every opportunity to share with us what it knows about this incident,” Miliband told British television.

“We hope and expect they will cooperate fully with the investigation that has been launched by the prime minister (Gordon Brown),” he said.

He said he hoped to discuss the issue further with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman when both men were in Brussels on Monday.

Prosor declined to give reporters any details of the meeting, but said: “I was unable to add additional information to Sir Peter Ricketts’ requests.”

Lieberman said on Thursday there was no reason to believe that Israel’s Mossad spy agency had carried out the assassination.

Brown has also ordered a “full investigation” into the fraudulent passports, which bear the names of six British nationals living in Israel.

The Foreign Office said the Serious Organized Crime Agency would lead the investigation in close cooperation with the Emirati authorities.

It said Britain would also provide support to its nationals “who have been affected by this fraudulent activity”.

In 1987, Britain protested to Israel about what London called the misuse by Israeli authorities of forged British passports and said it received assurances steps had been taken to prevent future occurrences.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi and Adrian Croft; editing by David Stamp

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