December 16, 2009
Britain Says Livni Welcome Despite Arrest Warrant By THE ASSOCIATED
Filed at 12:05 p.m. ET
JERUSALEM (AP) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown phoned former
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Wednesday to say she is still
welcome in Britain, despite a recent attempt by pro-Palestinian
activists to have her arrested during a planned visit to London.
Livni's office said the British premier called on Wednesday afternoon
to say he objects to the arrest warrant and that he intends to act to
change the law that allowed it to be issued.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the phone call. Brown ''said it
was a disappointment she couldn't visit, and that she would be welcome
in the U.K. at any time,'' the spokesman said.
The gesture did little to calm an uproar in Israel over the attempt to
arrest Livni -- the latest in a string of Israeli leaders to be
threatened with legal action in Britain.
Livni told reporters in Jerusalem that the warrant put other world
leaders and countries at risk. ''This isn't just a warrant against me
or the state of Israel, this is against every democratic country that
is fighting terrorism,'' Livni said.
''The terrorists should be charged, not those fighting against them,''
Livni said. ''This is a challenge to the whole free world and not just
Israel or Britain.''
Several Israeli officials have recently canceled visits to Britain
because of efforts by Palestinians to bring Israelis before British
courts under a law that allows trial for noncitizens accused of crimes
Livni apparently was targeted because she was foreign minister during
Israel's war against militants in the Gaza Strip in January. She has
been opposition leader since a new government took office in March.
The military campaign has drawn strong international condemnation
because hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed, and a U.N.
investigation has said that both Israel and Hamas militants committed
war crimes. Israel denies wrongdoing, saying it did its best to avoid
civilian casualties and that Hamas used civilians as human shields.
Livni's office said she was supposed to appear at a Jewish National
Fund convention in Britain on Sunday, but canceled her visit two weeks
ago for reasons unconnected with any legal action against her.
Israel's Foreign Ministry says the warrant has since been canceled.
Israel's president, Shimon Peres, angrily denounced the arrest attempt
against Livni as ''one of the greatest political mistakes'' that could
be done and urged Britain to quickly change its laws.
''Basically you could put any world leader on trial,'' he said in a
statement. ''Everything is based on unilateral informants, on a
hostile majority public opinion. The British promised they would fix
this and it is time that they do so. Britain has to decide where it
stands on our matter.''
British lawyers working with Palestinian activists have in recent
years sought the arrest of senior Israeli civilian and military
figures under terms of ''universal jurisdiction.'' This ill-defined
legal concept empowers judges to issue arrest warrants for visiting
officials accused of war crimes in a foreign conflict.
The threat of arrest has forced several former security officials to
call off trips to London, including a former general who remained
holed up on an airplane at Heathrow Airport in order to avoid arrest.
Earlier this year, Defense Minister Ehud Barak fended off an arrest
attempt by successfully arguing he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Tuesday announced that
Britain would no longer tolerate legal harassment of Israeli officials
in this fashion.
After meeting Israel's ambassador, Miliband said the British law
permitting judges to issue arrest warrants against foreign dignitaries
''without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor'' must be
reviewed and reformed.
Brown tells Livni she is welcome in the UK
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni yesterday afternoon to voice his objection against an arrest warrant issued by a UK court against the Israeli politician, resulting in Livni cancelling her trip to Britain. Brown added that Livni was welcome in the UK at any time. According to a Kadima party spokesperson, the UK prime minister said that he plans to act upon the legal situation in the UK, which is creating a loophole to allow the arrest warrants to be issued against state officials.
Livni said yesterday that the loophole in the legal system posed a threat to all democracies fighting terror. ‘These days, Israel is facing something that no democracy can accept. Legal systems are being abused for lawsuits against soldiers and officials,' she said while meeting with Lithuania's Foreign Affairs Minister Vygaudas Ušackas. Israeli President Shimon Peres called the UK arrest warrants one of the biggest UK political mistakes in years.
The conversation between Livni and Brown followed comments made on Tuesday by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who described the arrest warrant as ‘completely unacceptable'. ‘Israeli leaders - like leaders from other countries - must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British government,' Miliband stated.
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