UAE condemns passport abuse

2010-02-21 20:56

Dubai - The United Arab Emirates condemned on Sunday the abuse of European passports by the assassins of a top Hamas figure in Dubai, as police said some of the killers entered the country with diplomatic passports.

The Dubai police chief also called for Hamas to conduct an internal investigation into the killing, pointing to a possible mole in the Palestinian Islamist movement.

"The UAE is deeply concerned by the fact that passports of close allies, whose nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers, were illegally used to commit this crime," said a foreign ministry statement, carried by the official WAM news agency.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a founder of Hamas' armed wing, was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai on January 20.

The UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, has summoned EU ambassadors to the UAE to brief them on developments in the case and to seek their continued co-operation with the investigation, the statement said.

"The abuse of passports poses a global threat, affecting both countries' national security as well as the personal security of travellers," UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said in the statement.

Diplomatic passports

"We fully intend that those responsible are brought to account for their actions," he said.

Meanwhile, Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan said some of Mabhouh's killers used diplomatic passports to enter the country.

"There is information that Dubai police will not make public for the moment, especially regarding diplomatic passports" used by some of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's killers to enter Dubai, Khalfan was quoted by Al-Bayan newspaper as saying.

Dubai police last week released the names and photos of 11 suspects in Mabhouh's killing who entered the UAE on European passports - six from Britain, three from Ireland, one from Germany and one from France.

Those passports appear to have been falsified or stolen, as they belonged to what appear to be ordinary citizens shocked to learn of their being linked to the case.

Khalfan had not previously mentioned any of the suspects holding diplomatic passports. However, he said last week in a Dubai TV interview that there were others implicated in the killing whose names have not yet been made public.

Israeli involvement

The use of European passports has sparked a diplomatic furore in which Israeli envoys in the four countries have been summoned for talks.

But on Saturday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon insisted there would be no diplomatic crisis with Europe over the use of foreign passports in the Mabhouh murder "as Israel had nothing to do with what happened".

Khalfan, however, has said he is "99%, if not 100%" sure that Mossad was behind the assassination, and added on Saturday that Dubai had evidence, including wiretaps, of the agency's role.

The UK's Sunday Times said the killing was carried out by Israel's spy agency Mossad with the green light and blessing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Khalfan said that Mabhouh's killing was "no longer a local issue, but a security issue for European countries", quoted on Sunday in another Emirati daily, the Abu Dhabi-owned Al-Ittihad.

Al-Ittihad said Khalfan has called for Hamas to conduct an internal investigation "about the person who leaked information on Mabhouh's movements" and arrival in Dubai to his killers.

The source of the leak was the "real killer", Khalfan was quoted as saying.

Two Palestinians have been arrested in Jordan and extradited to Dubai, where they are being held in connection with the murder, according to Khalfan.

A Palestinian Authority security official in the West Bank said a senior Hamas member, Nehru Massud, was also suspected of involvement in the killing.

Massud has denied he had a role in Mabhouh's death.

Hamas has blamed the killing entirely on Israel and vowed revenge.