EU condemns Israel after Dubai assassination

February 23, 2010

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union condemned on Monday the use of fraudulent EU passports by the killers of a Palestinian leader in Dubai, showing its discontent with Israel without referring to it directly.

In a short statement, which European diplomats said was intended as a rebuke to Israel, EU foreign ministers said after talks in Brussels that the assassination raised “profoundly disturbing” issues and said citizens' rights were violated.
Dubai has accused Israel of being behind the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Israel has not denied or confirmed it played any role but its foreign minister, visiting Brussels, said there was nothing to link it to the killing.
“The EU strongly condemns the fact that those involved in this action (the assassination) used fraudulent EU member states' passports and credit cards acquired through the theft of EU citizens' identities,” the ministers said.
“The EU welcomes the investigation by the Dubai authorities and calls on all countries to cooperate with it.”
Diplomats said the statement was intended to put pressure on Israel, but no direct reference was made to it because there was no proof Israeli agents carried out the assassination.
The declaration is unlikely to have any long-term repercussions for EU-Israeli ties and Israeli officials have played down the possibility of a full-blown crisis.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamic resistance movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said the EU statement lacked teeth.
“Condemning the use of (European) passports was insufficient. The statement did not indicate any condemnation of the crime, Mabhouh's assassination,” he said.
Using Hamas's term for Israel, he said: “This will tempt the occupation to carry out more crimes of this kind.”
French outrage, British concern
Dubai authorities say at least 11 assassins traveled on forged British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh in a hotel on the orders of Israel's spy agency Mossad.
France and Germany have asked Israel for an explanation and President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of France's “irrevocable condemnation of what is nothing less than an assassination” after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris.
Prosecutors in Cologne are looking into whether one of the men acquired a German passport under a false pretext to engage in spying, and could refer the case to federal prosecutors for investigation, a spokesman said.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he had set out his concerns to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during talks on the sidelines of the EU meeting in Brussels.
He urged Israel to cooperate with a British inquiry into how as many as six British passports could have been forged for use by the assassins.
“It's also important to say that Israel, in some ways above all countries, has the most to gain from a Middle East that is based on the rule of law and that's why it's right to take these issues to the highest level in Israel and ask for their full cooperation in the inquiry,” he said.
Lieberman issued a statement after meeting Ireland's foreign minister, Micheal Martin, saying “there is no information showing that Israel is involved in the matter.”
Israel has a policy of ambiguity on intelligence issues.
Israel's deputy prime minister said there was more to the story than met the eye and Israel's ties with Europe were good.
Dubai police say they are virtually certain Israeli agents carried out the killing and have released the identities of 11 people using European passports who they say were involved.
Six Britons with the same names of members of the alleged hit team live in Israel and said they were victims of identity theft. The information raised speculation that the Mossad copied their passports and amended the documents to allow the assassins to enter the emirate, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
Photo: The father of senior Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh poses with a picture of his son outside his family's house in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, February 22, 2010. (Reuters photo)