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Britons whose identity stolen to get new passports

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Britain has offered new passports to six citizens whose identities were used by suspects in a Dubai assassination, hoping to save the Britons from inadvertent arrest under an Interpol alert, an official said on Friday.

Consular staff at the British embassy in Tel Aviv have tracked down the six, all of whom live in Israel, after Dubai police said an alleged hit squad had used their identities when entering the emirate to kill a top Hamas commander.

"We have invited the nationals to come to the consular section in Tel Aviv to get new passports in place of the ones that Dubai police publicized with their identities," embassy spokesman Raffi Shamir said.

"This step will reduce the risk that these people might be inadvertently detained," he added.

Dubai police have released the identities of 11 people carrying European passports, including those of the six Britons, which they said were used in the killing of Palestinian Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel last month.

The international criminal police organization Interpol said on Thursday it had issued "red notices" for the 11 suspects to help find and arrest them anywhere in its 188 member countries.

Dubai's police chief said on Thursday he believed Israeli agents were responsible for the killing al-Mabhouh, a senior member of the Islamist group, and called for the Mossad spy agency's boss to be arrested if its responsibility was proved.

Israel has refused to comment on the January 19 killing.

The names and numbers on the original passports are the same as those used by the alleged agents, but the photographs and signatures are different, Shamir said.

Consular staff managed to contact all the British nationals in Israel whose identity was used in the cloned passports, including Melvyn Adam Mildiner, to whom Reuters spoke by phone on Tuesday, a day after his stolen identity was publicized with the others.

Six other suspects identified by Dubai used cloned passports from Ireland, France and Germany.

Britain called in Israel's ambassador to London Ron Prosor on Thursday to seek an explanation of how the passports of British citizens came to be used by the alleged killers.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said a top British diplomat had made clear to Prosor "how seriously we take any suggestion of fraudulent use of British passports" and sought Israeli assistance.

Prosor said he was "unable to assist" the British with more information.

(Editing by Douglas Hamilton and David Stamp)

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