Australia expels Israeli over fake passports

By Peter Smith - ft.com

Sydney - Canberra is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the fraudulent use of four Australian passports by suspected Mossad agents linked to the assassination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai.

Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said yesterday the country's investigations left no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of Australian passports.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated in January by what is widely believed to be a squad of Israeli spies using UK, Irish, French, German and Australian passports. Israel has refused to confirm its involvement.

Britain in March expelled an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake passports by an unnamed state intelligence agency.

The expulsions from both countries highlight the strained relations between Israel and its allies.

Canberra refused to identify the diplomat who would leave the country within a week but the web edition of Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported the person was a representative of Mossad who worked at the Israeli embassy.

Mr Smith said he could not tolerate the abuse of Australian passports by a foreign government. "This represents a clear affront to the security of our passport system," he said.

"Australia's relationship with Israel has always been founded on a basis of mutual respect and trust. But Israel's actions in this regard have undermined that respect and trust."

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