Israeli Foreign Ministry, army wrangle over attache's expulsion from Russia

13:59, June 03, 2011      

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Israel's Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are reportedly embroiled in a dispute over the circumstances that led Russia to expel a military attache in Moscow last month, the Ha'aretz newspaper claimed on Thursday.

Ministry officials say the former attache bears personal responsibility for having disregarded diplomatic codes of conduct, while senior IDF officials insist that the Russian government aimed to "send a message" to Jerusalem, the report said.

The Israeli Defense Ministry has not responded to Xinhua's request for comment.

Israel Air Force officer Col. Vadim Leiderman was detained for questioning by Russian security agents on May 12 while meeting with a Russian army officer. He was deported less than 48 hours later on accusations of espionage.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Leiderman attempted to obtain intelligence about Russia's military cooperation and arms deals with Arab and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) states while also "aggressively" promoting the interests of Israel's military industries in the local market.

The IDF rejected the accusations as "baseless."

But Israeli Foreign Ministry officials now hold that Leiderman had been cautioned on three occasions by the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding violation of diplomatic conduct.

"There are codes of conduct for diplomats abroad, and they are the same in all countries," a ministry official told Ha'aretz.

"The Vienna Convention determines what each person in the embassy can do and who is responsible for what," the official said, hinting that the attache may had overstepped the boundaries of his official role.

IDF officials hastily rallied behind Leiderman and rolled responsibility for the affair back to the Foreign Ministry, saying that diplomats at the Israeli embassy in Moscow had not adequately briefed him about the Russians' concerns over his activities.

The former attache was interrogated by Israel's security services upon his return to the country. The IDF, along with the foreign and defense ministries, is expected to hold a more thorough investigation of the affair.

Source: Xinhua
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