EU Envoy Seeks Proof in Lebanon that Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers Alive
The EU's foreign policy and security chief, Javier Solana, called in Beirut Wednesday for "proof" that the three Israeli soldiers abducted by Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas in a border clash are still alive.
"I conveyed to the president our concern about the three and we want very much to see them alive and we want proof that they are alive," Solana told reporters after meeting President Emile Lahoud.
Asked if he had information about the health of the soldiers, Solana said: "I haven't got any answers unfortunately for the moment, but I insist that it would be quite an important sign and an important contribution to lower the temperature in the region."
Solana said his tour of the region was meant "to see what the EU can do to help bring the situation to a lower level of violence, to lower the temperature of the region, so that we can continue the peace process."
After meeting Prime Minister Salim Hoss, Solana said "the essential was to know about the health of the three soldiers."
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak ruled out any negotiations on the soldiers snatched on October 7 in a disputed border area until there was news about their health and safety.
"There will be no negotiations with Hizbollah as long as it does not allow a visit to the soldiers by an organization such as the Red Cross," he told a closed-door meeting of the foreign affairs and defense committee, army radio reported.
"Before any negotiations about them, we want to know what state they are in," said Barak, who has warned of reprisals against both Lebanon and Syria over the abduction.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday he had word that the three were "well," although the Red Cross said it has still has not been allowed access.
Hizbollah has so far refused to disclose any detail about the soldiers, saying such information was a "negotiating tool."
It has offered to swap the three soldiers in return for the release of 19 Lebanese held in Israel, but was also considering demands from Palestinian groups that around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners be included in a deal.
Solana, accompanied by EU Middle East policy coordinator Miguel Angel Moratinos, arrived earlier Wednesday from Beirut on the fourth leg of his regional tour.
In Cairo, Solana said diplomatic efforts to bridge the Palestinian-Israeli gap over a commission to investigate the causes of two weeks of violence between the two sides looked likely to succeed.
"In the coming hours, I hope we will be able to come to a conclusion accepted by everybody," Solana said at a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa.
Discussions still centered on the "structure" of such a commission, but the "principle" of one has been accepted, Solana said - BEIRUT (AFP)
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