Straw: We're sorry for Almog affair

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw apologized to Israel on September 19 for the brouhaha in which IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog was unable to land in London because of an arrest warrant issued for alleged war crimes, according to the Foreign Ministry. Straw told Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that he was "embarrassed" by the incident and would work to "find a good way of dealing with such problems," according to the Shalom adviser accompanying the minister in New York. During the closed meeting between the two ministers, Straw reassured Shalom that he had wanted to call the Israeli government about the episode. He refrained from phoning, he explained, because his legal staff advised him it would appear that he was speaking out against British law. Straw declared, "We should say loud and clear what we think and we should find a way to bridge the gap so this doesn't happen in the future," the Shalom adviser reported. In response, Shalom told Straw that the incident "could cast a great shadow on our good relationship with England." An Israeli Embassy official warned Almog not to disembark from his plane last week. Almog returned on the same plane. Almog served as head of the IDF's southern command in 2002 when Israeli jets struck wanted Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh, killing him and 14 others, nine of them children. Human rights groups frequently highlight the attack when accusing Israeli commanders of war crimes. The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights had filed a complaint against Almog through a British law firm under legislation that gives Britain the power to charge foreigners with war crimes, even if Britain or its citizens were not involved. A warrant for Almog's arrest was issued on September 10th by the Bow Street Magistrates' Court, in central London, the human rights group said. The arrest warrant was rescinded on procedural grounds after Almog apparently wasn't in the country and therefore not within the jurisdiction of the British authorities. The Associated Press contributed to this report.