Britain vows arrest rules change after Israel row

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New Foreign Secretary William Hague vowed Thursday to "act speedily" to change the way arrests are ordered under international law in Britain, after a row over visits by Israeli ministers.

Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, reportedly cancelled a trip here in December for fear of being arrested after a court issued a warrant following an application by Palestinian activists.

"It's absolutely my intention to act speedily," Hague told reporters.

"The current situation is as unsatisfactory as it is indefensible. We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country... and indeed this would apply to many other nations as well.

"This has to be put right."

Hague said Britain's new coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron, would look at various options including one proposed by the previous Labour government.

Ex-prime minister Gordon Brown proposed in March to put the public prosecution service -- as opposed to judges -- in charge of considering whether an arrest warrant should be issued in any case brought under international law.

Judges in Britain can issue arrest warrants for war crimes suspects around the world under the Geneva Convention Act 1957, without any requirement to consult public prosecutors.

A London court last year issued a warrant for the arrest of Livni, now the leader of Israel's opposition Kadima party, over her role in Israel's 22-day war against the Hamas-rule Gaza Strip, launched at the end of 2008.

"We find it completely unacceptable that someone such as Mrs. Livni feels she cannot visit the United Kingdom," Hague said, adding: "Be in no doubt that we will take action on it."

© 2010 AFP

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