Israeli ambassador to meet NZ Governor-General

Israel's new ambassador is to present his credentials to Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright tomorrow, signalling a return to normal diplomatic relations following the Israeli spies scandal.

The relationship between this country and Israel took a frosty turn after two alleged agents of the Israeli Mossad agency were arrested in March 2004 and charged with trying to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports.

Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara were convicted in July last year, then deported last September after serving two months of their six-month prison sentences.

Today Dame Silvia's office said Israel's new ambassador Naftali Tamir would be among representatives of six countries presenting their credentials.

A career diplomat, Mr Tamir had held senior positions within the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based in Canberra, he is also cross accredited to Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Earlier, diplomatic sanctions had been imposed against Israel, including a delay of approval for the appointment of a new ambassador, until that country apologised for the passports incident.

Two months ago Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Israel had made the required apology.

In a letter Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said his country attached great importance to its relationship with New Zealand.

"In this context, we wish to express our regret for the activities which resulted in the arrest and conviction of two Israel citizens in New Zealand on criminal charges and apologise for the involvement of Israeli citizens in such activities," he said.

Other representatives presenting credentials tomorrow include ambassadors Asi Tuiataga James Faafili Blakelock from Samoa, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo representing the Holy See, and Dr Bienvenido V Tejano of the Philippines.

High commissioners Bernard Mullu Narokobi of Papua New Guinea, and Penny Reedie of Canada are also to present their credentials.

- NZPA

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