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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Straw apology on Israeli arrest
Silvan Shalom
The Israeli foreign minister said the attempted arrest was an "outrage"
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has apologised to his Israeli counterpart over the attempted arrest of a general accused of war crimes.

Major General Doron Almog, ex-head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, faced private prosecution charges.

The Foreign Office says Mr Straw apologised to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom "as a courtesy".

"He was saying he was sorry if the incident had embarrassed the Israelis," said a Foreign Office spokesman.

Mr Straw also stressed the UK Government had not played a role in the arrest warrant - which Maj Gen Almog dodged after a tip-off from an Israeli official.

The apology came when Mr Straw met Mr Shalom at the recent United Nations summit in New York.

Lawyers acting for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said a UK court had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Solicitors Hickman and Rose said the 54-year-old had been due to be arrested on suspicion of committing a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, which is a criminal offence in the UK under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

Senior District Judge Timothy Workman had given the police authority to detain Maj Gen Almog during a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in central London, the law firm added.

The warrant relates to the bulldozing of more than 50 houses in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, when Maj Gen Almog was head of Israel's Southern Command.

'Outrage'

Britain is one of several European countries which allows investigations of alleged war crimes involving foreign nationals if the suspect's own country is unwilling or unable to act.

Mr Shalom protested earlier this week about the arrest warrant.

He said: "The fact that Israeli soldiers and high-ranking officials are prevented from entering European countries is an outrage.

"We take a grave view of this. Don't forget that Britain has troops in Iraq. What will it do if other countries decide that British officers and soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq?

"Will they consent to having them arrested in other countries? I think it should change at once."

In a letter to Mr Straw and the UK attorney general, James Arbuthnot MP, parliamentary chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said the incident had caused embarrassment to Britain and concern to the world.

Mr Arbuthnot said: "I do not believe that when the Geneva Conventions were agreed it would have been envisaged that they could have been invoked without reference to the government of the day.

"I consider that the issue of such a warrant should be a matter for the government and only the government, and would suggest that it should be impossible to issue a warrant under the Conventions without the prior consent of the attorney general."


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