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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Israel fears arrests, delays officers' trip to UK

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM : Israel has delayed a visit by senior military officers to Britain amid fears the group could be arrested there on war crimes charges, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Tuesday.

"These officers were invited by Great Britain, but they will stay in Israel as long as we do not have a 100 percent guarantee that they will not become objects of criminal lawsuits in that country," Ayalon told public radio.

In December, Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel's main opposition party Kadima and foreign minister during the Gaza war a year ago, cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued against her by a British court, sparking a diplomatic row.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that Livni is welcome and has voiced his determination to change the law that allows British courts to issue warrants for alleged war crimes suspects around the world.

The Hamas rulers of Gaza, considered a terror organization by Israel and the West, have said they were providing information to European lawyers investigating alleged war crimes by Israel during the Gaza war.

Ayalon said that he would discuss the matter on Tuesday with Britain's Attorney General, Patrician Janet Scotland of Asthal, who is currently in Israel on a private visit.

"This legislation is often misused," Ayalon said. "It initially targeted Nazi criminals, but terrorist organizations like Hamas are today using it to take democracies hostage.

"We have to put an end to this absurdity, which is harming the excellent bilateral relations between Israel and Britain," he said. AFP

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