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Israel insists it has no case to answer over fake passports

ISRAEL has brushed aside Irish complaints about the use of five Irish passports in a Middle East assasination.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin had a 40-minute meeting in Brussels with his Israeli counterpart to discuss the issue but Avigdor Lieberman said his country had no case to answer.

Despite the widespread acceptance that Mossad was behind the killing in Dubai of a top Hamas official, he calmly insisted Israel had no information on how forged Irish passports came to be used in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

A week after the passport forgery controversy broke, the fifth and final Irish passport holder was finally contacted last night and offered the option of a new passport.

Two of the five passport holders were due to fly out of Ireland at the weekend and could have been arrested had they not been alerted to the fraudulent use of their passport numbers.

Up until yesterday evening, the department had only managed to contact four of the five passport holders since the controversy broke a week ago.

Department officials would only confirm that the fifth person had finally been contacted but refused to say why there had been a week-long delay.

The passports all pre-date 2005 when biometric encryption and embedded images of the holder were added to Irish passports to bolster security.

Following his meeting in Brussels, Mr Martin claimed the fraudulent use of passport numbers posed a grave threat to the security of the five Irish citizens involved. He said he is still seeking information from the Israeli authorities and reassurances the Israeli state is not involved in the passport incident.

And he revealed the controversy is already having a significant affect on EU and Irish passport holders, with one Irish businessman in Dubai experiencing a "negative reaction".

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"We sought assurances and clarifications from the Israeli foreign minister. He indicated that he had no information whatsoever in relation to the situation and could not provide any additional information in relation to what happened in Dubai," Mr Martin said.


In a statement, Mr Lieberman said no information linked Israel to the incident. He added that if any alternate information -- beyond media reports -- emerges, Israel would respond.

EU foreign ministers also rowed into the controversy with a statement condemning the use of the forged European passports. But they omitted any reference to Israel.

Labour's European affairs spokesman Joe Costello last night urged Mr Martin to send a garda investigation team to the United Arab Emirates to investigate the fraudulent use of Irish passports.

He said the meeting with Mr Lieberman had been "disappointing" in not obtaining clear answers.

"The passport identities of Irish citizens are clearly vulnerable to being stolen and used in the commission of serious crimes on the international stage. Such theft and use puts the liberty and lives of Irish citizens at risk when they travel abroad, particularly, to areas of conflict and tension," he said.

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