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Wednesday March 24, 2010 9:52 AM (EST+7)
Israel could replace expelled diplomat

Read more: Mahmoud Mabhouh, UK-Israel relations, Israel-UK relations, Mossad

JERUSALEM, March 24 (Reuters) - Israel may soon replace a diplomat Britain has said it will expel over the use of forged British passports by suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most widely read news daily, said the diplomat being sent home was actually a Mossad intellligence agent, and that he would fly back to Israel after the Passover holiday early next month.

Israel could replace the agent with another as ties between the two countries have not been seriously harmed, the newspaper said. Army Radio carried a similar report.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

British Foreign Minister David Miliband told parliament on Tuesday he had asked a member of Israel's embassy be withdrawn.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied a role in the January killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a military commander from the Palestinian organismic Hamas, in a Dubai hotel room.

Dubai's police chief has said he is almost certain Israeli agents were involved and has accused the intelligence agency Mossad of insulting Dubai.

Authorities in the Gulf emirate have given names for 27 alleged members of a team that killed the Palestinian, and said they used fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports to enter and leave Dubai.

Miliband said there were compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for forging the 12 British passports used and said he had sought assurances from Israel that it would not do so again.

Israel said it regretted Britain's decision but commentators on Wednesday thought the incident would do no meaningful damage to bilateral ties.

We attribute great importance to relations with Britain, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement on Tuesday. We have received no evidence pointing to Israeli involvement in the matter (Mabhouh's assassination), he said.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)






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