Israel slams Livni warrant

2009-12-15 22:28

Jerusalem - Israel on Tuesday slammed a British arrest warrant for former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, warning Britain would not be able to play a key role in the peace process unless it curbed such warrants.

"Israel rejects the cynical legal move made in the British court against the head of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, at the behest of radical elements," the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

It was referring to an arrest warrant understood to have been issued by a London court at the weekend against Livni over her role in Israel's war against Hamas-run Gaza at the turn of the year.

Later on Tuesday, British Ambassador Tom Phillips was summoned to the foreign ministry to be handed the Israeli government's protest.

"Israel calls on the British government to fulfil its promises, once and for all, to act in preventing the exploitation of the British legal system by anti-Israel elements," the statement said.

Strategic partner

"The absence of immediate, determined action to correct this abuse harms relations between Britain and Israel," it warned.

"If Israeli leaders cannot visit Britain in proper, dignified fashion, this will, quite naturally, seriously compromise Britain's ability to play the active role in the Middle East peace process that it desires."

Media reports said the warrant caused Livni to cancel a trip to Britain, although her office said the trip was only postponed because of scheduling problems.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said on Monday it was urgently assessing the implications of the warrant.

"The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel," she said.

"To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case."

Latest incident

It marked the latest incident in which British courts have issued, or have been asked to issue, arrest warrants for Israeli officials.

In September, pro-Palestinian activists sought to have Defence Minister Ehud Barak arrested over his role in the Gaza war, but a court denied the request on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

In 2005, a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, avoided arrest in Britain by returning to Israel without leaving the plane that had landed him in London after he learned an arrest warrant had been issued against him.