UK to expel Israeli diplomat over Dubai case

Britain will expel an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday to rebuke Israel for its alleged use of forged British passports in the assassination of a Hamas operative in a suspected Mossad hit, a U.K. government official said.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband was scheduled to address Parliament over the issue, following an investigation into the use of 12 fake U.K. passports in the incident.

Britain’s Foreign Office would not provide any details of Miliband’s statement in advance.

“The foreign secretary will make a statement to the House of the Commons this afternoon,” a spokeswoman said, on customary condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

However, the U.K. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment ahead of the statement, confirmed that one Israeli diplomat will be expelled.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office confirmed that Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, met with Peter Ricketts, Britain’s senior diplomat, on Monday to discuss the case.

Israel’s foreign ministry declined to provide details of the talks. There is no suggestion the ambassador himself would be expelled; the diplomat ordered out of Britain is likely to be a lower-ranking official.

In London, Israel’s embassy said Miliband had been due to attend a reception Tuesday to mark the refurbishment of the embassy building, but would not now be present. The embassy would not comment on whether a diplomat would be expelled.

“We can neither confirm nor deny,” said an embassy spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.

Dubai authorities have accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of being behind the Jan 20. slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel room, and have identified at least 26 suspects of an alleged hit squad that traveled to Dubai on fake identities and forged European and Australian passports.

Interpol has unveiled a wanted list of 27 people in connection with the slaying. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any involvement in al-Mabhouh’s killing.

At least 15 of the names used by the suspected killers match those of Israeli citizens who are dual nationals of western countries — including eight Israeli-British dual nationals. All have denied involvement, saying their identities were stolen.

Shortly after he was named as one of the British suspects, dual national Melvyn Adam Mildiner told The Associated Press that he thought he was picked because “I don’t have a Jewish-sounding name.”

It is suspected Mossad specifically targeted the identities of dual nationals. It is relatively easy for British Jews — and Jews from other nations — to qualify for Israeli passports if they meet the basic requirements set out by the Israeli government. It is common for people to carry valid passports from both nations.

In a recent speech, Eliza Manningham-Buller — the ex-head of Britain’s MI5 — said forged British passports had previously been used by the same country behind the Dubai slaying, though she declined to specifically name Israel.

Arieh Eldad, a lawmaker from Israel’s National Union — a hardline opposition party — called Friday for the military attache of the British Embassy in Israel to be expelled in response. “Nobody nominated them as the judges in our war against terror,” he told the AP.

Diplomatic expulsions are a rare sanction against foreign governments. Britain kicked out four Russian diplomats in 2007 over the country’s refusal to extradite to London a suspect in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko.

The country’s Serious and Organized Crime Agency has conducted an inquiry into the use of forged British passports, but is not involved in wider inquiries by Dubai police into the killing.

Associated Press writers Raphael G. Satter and Gregory Katz in London and Aron Heller and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report