Report: Australia may expel Israeli diplomat over Dubai hit
Australia may follow U.K. in punishing Israel over alleged use of forged passports in Dubai killing.
Australia is expected to follow the lead of Britain, which ejected an Israeli diplomat Tuesday over the alleged use of forged passports by suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai, The Australian newspaper reported quoting Israeli government officials.
"It appears Israeli officials have received indications in Canberra that Australia is preparing to expel a diplomat," the newspaper reported.
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in a Dubai hotel room in January in what police say was almost certainly a hit by Israel's Mossad spy agency.
The alleged assassins used forged passports from the U.K., France, Australia, Ireland and Germany.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband went before parliament Tuesday to announce that the five-week investigation by the Serious and Organized Crime Squad into the use of 12 forged British passports had concluded with the finger pointed squarely at Israel. There would be immediate and serious repercussions, he said.
The Foreign Secretary said that there was "compelling evidence" that Israeli spy agency Mossad had forged British passports for use in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.
Although Israel initially thought Australia would unlikely follow the U.K.'s lead, that assessment changed distinctly Tuesday night, The Australian reported.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday that an Israeli government official said Britain's response was less harsh than some had feared.
"It could have been much worse," the official told the British newspaper. "I wouldn't call it a slap on the wrist, but it was more a symbolic reprimand than anything else."
Israel has also received assurances that the diplomat asked to leave could be replaced within six weeks, once the general election was over, the report added.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel "regretted" Britain's decision on Tuesday to expel an Israeli diplomat over the alleged use of forged British passports by suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai.
"We attribute great importance to our relations with Britain," Lieberman said in a statement from Brussels, where he was meeting with senior European Union officials. "We hold a number of different and sensitive dialogues with them, and regret the British decision. We have never been given proof that Israel was involved in this affair."
Officials in Jerusalem expressed disappointment with Britain's public response to the matter, with some saying off the record that they saw it as a negative step in the war on terror.