Wellington, May 24 NZPA - United Arab Emirates officials have issued an arrest warrant for a British man they are seeking in a probe of the January killing of a top Hamas official -- a new suspect in addition to Zev Barkan, the suspected Israeli agent wanted by New Zealand police on identity-theft charges.
So far, Dubai police have named 33 suspects in the case, but have been dogged by the fact that most of them used false passports.
Dubai officials have blamed the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room on Israel's intelligence agency. Mr Mabhouh was a senior operative in Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, which Israel labels a terror organisation.
But the Wall Street Journal today reported the Glasgow-born Briton, Christopher Lockwood, may have been operating without an alias.
"That makes the identification of Mr Lockwood a possible significant breakthrough in the case," it said in a report only attributed to a "person familiar with the situation".
A former Israeli diplomat at the centre of a passport scam in New Zealand in 2004, Zev William Barkan, is one of the suspects Dubai police say they want to speak to.
Barkan fled to Israel after the April 2004 arrest in Auckland of his associates Uriel Zoshe Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50, for trying to obtain a passport using the birth certificate of an unsuspecting Auckland tetraplegic with cerebral palsy. New Zealand officials said the three men were Israeli spies.
Barkan, who is still being sought for his part in the passport plot, spent time in New Zealand plotting with Kelman and Cara, then left for Sydney, but kept his New Zealand cellphone active to take calls from Internal Affairs and the travel company he had contacted to arrange a passport.
The 18 month row over the Israeli actions was resolved only when Israel apologised to the Clark Government and guaranteed that a similar situation would not occur again.
But today, Australia's government said it had ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat - over the use of fake Australian passports in the Dubai assassination.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said a police investigation left no doubt Israeli intelligence services had been behind the forgery of four Australian passports used by suspects in the case. Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that the expelled official was the Mossad representative in the Israeli embassy in Canberra.
Britain took similar action in March, also expelling the Mossad attache to the Israeli embassy in London, after concluding there was compelling evidence that Israel was responsible for the use of doctored British passports in the plot.