Livni Denies Arrest Report in Arab Paper

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Kadima chairwoman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni's office denied a report in the London-based Arabic-language daily al-Quds al-Arabi that fear of arrest prompted her to cancel a trip to London.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazerra reported that a British court had issued an arrest warrant for Livni, alleging "war crimes" during Operation Cast Lead - Israel's three-week military incursion into the Gaza Strip last winter - when she served as foreign minister.

Livni had been scheduled to speak at the Jewish National Fund's Vision 2010 conference being held in Hendon, northwest of London.

According to the report, Scotland Yard told conference organizers that Livni cancelled because of threats by pro-Palestinian groups hoping to have her arrested for the Gaza operation.

Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that pro-Palestinian protestors demonstrated outside the hotel on Sunday as Jewish participants arrived for the conference.

Livni's office clarified the circumstances prompting the cancellation.

"We turned down the invitation to the annual JNF conference two weeks ago because we weren't able to schedule meetings with some government officials around the conference, necessitating a longer absence from Israel than we wanted," her office told YNet news.

Livni has no regrets for having backed the Gaza operation, her staff member said.

"The opposition chairwoman is proud of all her decisions regarding Operation Cast Lead, which achieved its objectives to protect Israeli citizens and reinstate Israel's deterrence capability," her office said.

In his remarks at the opening of the Knesset's winter session in October, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defended "Israel's basic rights to self-defense."

"We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [defense minister] Ehud Barak and [then foreign minister] Tzipi Livni, who sent IDF soldiers to defend cities and civilians, will be called to the defendants' benches at The Hague," Netanyahu said.

Two months ago, a British court issued an indefinite deferral on a petition by pro-Palestinian groups to arrest Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

In 2004, the same groups petitioned the courts for an international warrant against former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who served in the Sharon government. The court set a precedent by granting immunity to Mofaz, which heretofore had only been granted to foreign ministers and premiers.

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Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post

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