Australia calls in Israeli envoy over passports

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Australia’s foreign minister  summoned Israel’s ambassador over three Australian passports used in the assassination of a senior Hamas official.

Ambassador Yuval Rotem met Thursday with Stephen Smith to discuss Israel’s alleged role in the slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on Jan. 20.

“Israel’s ambassador met with the minister this morning and the ambassador told Minister Smith that he would convey to Jerusalem the message he received,” an Israeli Embassy spokesman in Canberra told JTA.

Smith told parliament later Thursday that  “I made it crystal clear to the ambassador that the Australian government regards this as a matter of the gravest concern.”

He said he stressed to Rotem that Australia expects the Israeli government and its agencies to “fully cooperate” with Australian Federal Police and Australia’s intelligence agency in their investigation.

“If the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend,” Smith said, adding that “Australia, of course, is a longstanding friend of Israel.”

Israel has not confirmed or denied any involvement in the assassination, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week there was nothing to link Israel to the killing.

Dubai authorities have named 26 suspects. The three Australians named Wednesday all live or have lived in Israel; they have denied any involvement.

“At this stage, Australian officials have no information to suggest the three Australian passport holders were involved in any way, other than as victims of passport or identity fraud,” Smith said. “The Australian government condemns in the strongest possible terms the misuse and abuse of Australian passports.”
 

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