Martin not likely to get answers on passports

FOREIGN Minister Micheál Martin will tackle his Israeli counterpart in Brussels this morning over the fake Irish passports used by the hit squad who killed a senior Hamas commander in Dubai – but is unlikely to get any answers.

Mr Martin will seek answers from Avigdor Lieberman on the fringes of aEuropean Union foreign ministers’ meeting, where the Israeli minister is also likely to be questioned by British Foreign Secretary David Milliband.

Israel has remained tight-lipped on the issue, and has not confirmed that Mossad was involved in the assassination of Palestinian Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel on January 19.

A spokesman for Minister Lieberman said yesterday: “Israel does not feel obliged to respond to any speculation about a link with Mossad and the passport issue. The meeting with Micheál Martin is ‘last minute’ and requested by the Irish.

“Israel did not ask for the meeting so it will wait to hear what the Irish foreign minister wants. Publicly, it is unlikely that Mr Lieberman will say more than the ambassadors have said. Nobody has officially accused Israel of anything – except Dubai – and all the police have there is CCTV footage. Israel does not need to come up with an excuse or respond if there is no clear evidence or accusation.”

Israeli politician Yaakov Katz said he believed assassins were paid by the Palestinian Authority to carry out the killing because of an internal feud.

“I believe it was done by so many people which is not fitting to our intelligence group, it looks to me like another country used it and used it purposely in that way to put the blame on Israel,” said Mr Katz, the head of the National Union party in the Knesset parliament.

Speaking yesterday, Minister for Overseas Development Peter Power, said the Government would take a strong lead on the issue.

“The Government is treating this with the utmost of seriousness and gravity,” he said.

“We are dealing with this through all the channels that are at our disposal, both diplomatic and through our security and police channels and we intend to get to the bottom of the matter as far as we can given that it is a global situation.”

Mr Power also said it would be “rash” to assume that diplomatic ties could be cut with Israel over the issue. The gardaí are working with Interpol regarding how the Irish passport numbers came to be used.

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