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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Israel lobby in US 'fires staff'
Capitol Hill, Washington
Aipac is said to wield great influence among US politicians
A powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington has fired two top employees said to be involved in an FBI spying investigation, US newspapers report.

The New York Times and Washington Post say the men from the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) are suspected of passing secrets to Israel.

Nobody has been charged with wrongdoing and lawyers for the dismissed men say they did not break any rules.

Aipac said the action was taken after "recently learned information".

Spokesman Patrick Dorton said the "conduct that Aipac expects of its employees" was also a factor in the decision.

Lawyers for the dismissed men - policy director Steve Rosen and senior analyst Keith Weissman - said they have never "solicited, received or passed on any classified documents".

"They carried out their job solely to serve Aipac's goal of strengthening the US-Israel relationship," a statement from the lawyers said.

Fears over Iran

The Pentagon revealed in August last year that a senior official was under investigation for giving Israel access to secret information about US policy towards Iran.

The suspected spy, Lawrence Franklin, worked in the office of Douglas Feith - an official who played a key role in planning the Iraq war, along with the Deputy Defence Secretary at the time, Paul Wolfowitz.

Reports at the time said Mr Franklin was suspected of using his ties to Aipac to pass on the information, though the exact nature of the contacts is not known.

According to the Washington Post newspaper, the FBI raided Aipac's offices twice last year.

Mr Franklin was briefly suspended from his job but is now back at work, though he has reportedly been stripped of security privileges.

Aipac was ranked alongside the National Rifle Association as one of the most effective lobby groups in Washington, often playing a pivotal role in US relations with Israel.

Israel has regularly warned the US it fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons and could use them to destabilise the region.




SEE ALSO:
Pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill
08 May 03 |  Newsnight
Israel denies US spy allegation
28 Aug 04 |  Americas
Israeli press mulls spy allegations
29 Aug 04 |  Middle East


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