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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
NZ hunting 'Israeli ex-diplomat'
Uriel Zosha Kelman arriving at court in disguise
Passport fraudster Kelman went to great lengths to conceal his identity
An Israeli man wanted by New Zealand in a passport fraud case used to work for the Israeli government, officials say.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff alleged that Zev Barkan was an attache at two Israeli embassies in Europe.

The allegation seems to support New Zealand's belief that Israel's spy agency was behind the attempt to obtain a New Zealand passport fraudulently.

Two Israelis have already been jailed in the affair, which has damaged relations between the two countries.

Mr Barkan is alleged to have applied for a passport under the name of a wheelchair-using New Zealand citizen who was unlikely ever to travel.

But he is thought to have fled the country in March when two other Israelis, Uriel Zosha Kelman and Eli Cara, were arrested as they arranged to pick up the passport.

Mr Goff told New Zealand radio that Mr Barkan had been employed at the Israeli embassies in Vienna and Brussels between 1993 and 2001.

Police are also hunting a fourth man who is still thought to be in the country whom they have refused to identify.

Sanctions on Israel

Prime Minister Helen Clark has called on Israel to apologise for its "utterly unacceptable" behaviour in relation to the passport scandal.

She said such acts - by what she called Israeli government agencies - were a violation of New Zealand sovereignty.

Uriel Zosha Kelman and Eli Cara in court in Auckland
Cara and Kelman pleaded guilty but denied being Mossad agents
Ms Clark has imposed a range of diplomatic sanctions, including delaying approval for the appointment of a new Israeli ambassador.

High-level visits to Israel have also been suspended and approval for Israeli President Moshe Katsav to visit New Zealand later this year has been suspended.

Kelman and Cara were sentenced to six months in jail on 15 July. Both have lodged appeals against their convictions.

Ms Clark has already said she has "no doubt whatsoever" that they were Israeli agents.

They deny this but have both admitted to being part of an organised criminal group trying to illegally obtain the passport.

Israel's spy agency Mossad has a history of trying to obtain foreign passports for its agents.

In October 1997, two Mossad assassins with forged Canadian papers were arrested in Jordan following a botched attempt to kill Hamas political leader Khaled Mishal.




SEE ALSO:
NZ 'evidence' against Israel
20 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
New Zealand-Israeli row deepens
16 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
New Zealand jails Israeli 'spies'
15 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Bus driver on Mossad wanted list
24 May 04  |  Middle East
Report slams Israel spy failures
28 Mar 04  |  Middle East


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