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US Embassy Accused Clark Govt Of "Flap" Over Passport Fraud For Arab Trade Gains

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
US Embassy Accused Clark Govt Of "Flap" Over Passport Fraud For Arab Trade Gains

The United States embassy accused Helen Clark's Government of over-reacting to Israeli agents trying to get New Zealand passports fraudulently, saying New Zealand wanted to boost trade with Arab countries.

In cables released by Wikileaks, former Ambassador Charles Swindells is disparaging about New Zealand's stance over the theft and forgery of New Zealand passports by suspected Israeli spies.

Fake British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports were believed to have been used by Mossad agents to enter and leave Dubai to kill Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Relations between Israel and New Zealand chilled after two reported Mossad agents, Eli Cara, 50, and Uriel Kelman, 31, were caught and jailed for trying to illegally obtain New Zealand passports in 2004.

A third suspected Mossad agent was a former Israeli diplomat based in Europe, Zev William Barkan, 37, who stole the identity of a tetraplegic Aucklander to fraudulently obtain his passport.

Police also sought a fourth person.

Miss Clark, who was prime minister at the time, said there was no doubt the men were Mossad operatives and suspended high-level diplomatic relations for more than a year until Israel apologised in 2005.

In the cables Mr Swindells talked about the case and how the offenders tried to use the birth certificate of a cerebral palsy sufferer.

In a cabled dated July 16, 2004, he details Miss Clark's reaction including quotes.

Mr Swindells said the reaction was the Government's "strongest diplomatic retaliation in 20 years" since the Rainbow Warrior bombing.

"The GoNZ (the Government of New Zealand) has little to lose by such stringent action, with limited contact and trade with Israel, and possibly something to gain in the Arab world, as the GoNZ is establishing an Embassy in Egypt and actively pursuing trade with Arab states.

"With Israeli Government officials eager to repair the relationship, and no time limit on the GoNZ's restrictions, it is possible the issue may be resolved in six months, when the Cara and Kelman have served their time, and leave the country."

In another cable a few days later on July 19 he writes about praise from Hamas being an unwanted consequence of New Zealand's condemnation.

"New Zealand continues to voice its strong support of the Roadmap (a plan for Middle East peace), but is loathe to take actions that would identify it as a supporter of Israel and, by proxy, the United States. The GoNZ prides itself on its multi-lateral credentials (ref B) but has been increasingly trying to stand alongside "Non-Aligned" countries.

"Its overly strong reaction to Israel over this issue suggests the GoNZ sees this flap as an opportunity to bolster its credibility with the Arab community, and by doing so, perhaps, help NZ lamb and other products gain greater access to a larger and more lucrative market."


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