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Alleged israeli spy suspected of using canadian passport

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Alleged Israeli spy suspected of using Canadian passport
UPDATED AT 8:13 AM EDT Thursday, Aug 5, 2004

OTTAWA -- The federal government is investigating whether Israeli intelligence agents are once again using Canadian passports for clandestine operations.

Ottawa suspects that an Israeli who has been implicated in an apparent espionage caper in New Zealand may be travelling on a Canadian passport that was reported stolen in China.

"We don't have all of the pieces of the puzzle yet," Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday.

Thus it is too soon to say whether Israel is reneging on a promise to Canada that its intelligence officers will not try to pose as Canadians.

The Israelis made the promise in 1997 after two agents of Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, were caught in Jordan trying to assassinate a leader of the militant Islamic group Hamas. The Israelis had used falsified Canadian passports.

Federal officials believe the safety of Canadians travelling in the Middle East will be compromised if they are suspected of being Israeli agents.

Mr. Doiron said Ottawa is investigating a report that Israeli Zev William Barkan is using a Canadian passport issued to Kevin William Hunter. The passport was stolen in the Chinese city of Guangzhou in April.

Ben Forer, spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, said his government stands behind the assurances it gave Canada in 1997. "Nothing has changed," he said.

Mr. Barkan, 37, is wanted by New Zealand police for allegedly trying to obtain a passport fraudulently from that country.

Two other Israelis -- described by New Zealand officials as Mossad agents -- were caught, tried and convicted in the plot. But Mr. Barkan, a former Israeli diplomat posted to Europe, is believed to have fled New Zealand.

One of the convicted Israelis, Uriel Kelman, 30, also holds Canadian citizenship and has travelled on a Canadian passport in the past. But Mr. Kelman entered New Zealand earlier this year on his Israeli passport. He and his alleged accomplice, Eli Cara, 50, are appealing their conviction. The pair face a six-month jail term.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she has no doubt the men were Israeli agents and she has demanded an apology from the Israeli government.

Mr. Kelman is a former employee of a Tel Aviv security company that provides anti-terrorism services.

Officials in Ottawa say Canadian travel documents are highly prized by foreign intelligence services. Many Canadians are immigrants and fluent in a variety of languages. Canada has upgraded the security features of passports in recent years to make them harder to forge or alter.

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