JERUSALEM - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown phoned former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni yesterday to say she is welcome in Britain despite a recent attempt by pro-Palestinian activists to have her arrested during a planned visit to London.
Livni's office said Brown called to say that he objected to the arrest warrant and that he intended to act to change the law that allowed it to be issued.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the call. Brown "said it was a disappointment she couldn't visit, and that she would be welcome in the U.K. at any time," the spokesman said.
The gesture did little to calm an uproar in Israel over the attempt to arrest Livni - the latest in a string of Israeli leaders to be threatened with legal action in Britain.
Livni told reporters in Jerusalem that the warrant put other world leaders and countries at risk.
"This isn't just a warrant against me or the state of Israel," Livni said. "This is against every democratic country that is fighting terrorism."
Several Israeli officials have recently canceled visits to Britain because of efforts by Palestinians to bring Israelis before British courts under a law that allows trial for noncitizens accused of crimes committed elsewhere.
Livni apparently was targeted because she was foreign minister during Israel's war against extremists last winter in the Gaza Strip. She has been opposition leader since a new government took office in March.
The military campaign drew international condemnation because hundreds of Palestinian civilians were reportedly killed. A U.N. investigation said both Israel and Hamas extremists committed war crimes. Israel denies wrongdoing, saying that it did its best to avoid civilian casualties and that Hamas used civilians as human shields.
Livni's office said she was supposed to appear at a Jewish National Fund convention in Britain on Sunday but canceled her visit for reasons unconnected with the legal action against her. Israel's Foreign Ministry said the warrant has since been canceled.
British lawyers working with Palestinian activists have sought the arrest of senior Israeli civilian and military figures under terms of "universal jurisdiction."
This loosely defined legal concept empowers judges to issue arrest warrants for visiting officials accused of war crimes in a foreign conflict.
The threat of arrest has forced several former security officials to call off trips to London, including a former general who remained holed up on an airplane at Heathrow Airport to avoid arrest.