'Australia had Mossad issues in past'

Former Palestinian envoy tells 'The Australian' warnings were ignored in 2004.

February 26, 2010 01:57
2 minute read.
This combination image made from undated photos re

mabhouh assassins 311. (photo credit: AP)

In what has now turned into almost a diplomatic ritual, Australia called in Israel’s envoy on Thursday to ask for clarifications on the alleged use of three fraudulent Australian passports in the assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, with the envoy responding that he knew nothing about the issue.

Similar scenes were played out last week in London, Dublin, Paris and Berlin. This time, however, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he told the ambassador, Yuval Rotem, that if Australian passports were misused by Israel, this would not be regarded as “the act of a friend.”

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Dubai authorities are investigating the use of at least 26 possibly fraudulent passports in connection with the January 19 slaying of Mabhouh in a hotel room there.

“I made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of the 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 told reporters.

An Israeli government official said there was no reason to place responsibility for this on Israel’s doorstep, because there was no evidence connecting Israel to the matter. This was especially true, he said, in light of reports that two of the alleged suspects subsequently left Dubai for Iran.

Smith told parliament in Canberra that Dubai authorities confirmed to Australian officials on Tuesday that they were investigating the use of three Australian passports in connection with the slaying, and that a preliminary investigation suggested they were fraudulently duplicated or altered.

“At this stage, Australian officials have no information to suggest that the three Australian passport-holders were involved in any way, other than as victims of passport or identity fraud,” Smith said.

He said all three Australians – Joshua Daniel Bruce, Adam Korman and Nicole McCabe – lived in Israel.

In Melbourne, Sarah Bruce said she was worried that her son could be the target of reprisal attacks before people realized he was the victim of identity theft.

“I am fearful, but hopefully everyone will see that it is fraud,” Bruce told reporters. “It’s not his photo in the pictures they’re flashing around everywhere.”

Smith said he met with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah on Wednesday to reinforce Australia’s full cooperation and the seriousness of the matter.

Former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, meanwhile, told The Australian on Thursday that the former government of John Howard warned Israel not to use fake Australian passports in intelligence operations.

“We have raised the issue of Israeli intelligence officers using foreign passports and that they should not consider using Australian passports,” he was quoted as saying.

Ties between New Zealand and Israel soured in March 2004, after two Israelis were arrested for trying to fraudulently obtain passports. They were later convicted, fined NZ$50,000 each and served three months of six-month sentences. New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions as a result, temporarily suspending high-level contacts between the countries.

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