Nasrallah: Prisoner exchange with Israel soon; Israel's Chief Rabbi to meet Iranian officials to discuss missing pilot
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the German-mediated deal for a prisoner exchange with Israel "is about to be carried out," code-naming it as operation "Freedom Definite."
According to Nasrallah, the exchange will involve the release of 19 Lebanese prisoners, the delivery of all remaining bodies of resistance fighters in addition to a supply of maps showing the minefields Israel left behind in South Lebanon following its withdrawal.
In an interview with Lebanon's As Safir Monday, Nasrallah said hundreds of Palestinian and Arab prisoners would also be freed in exchange for the release of the Israeli captives Hizbullah has been holding since October 2000.
Furthermore, Nasrallah said he had extended a pledge to Germany "to do my utmost" to help look into the fate of Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad, whose aircraft was shot down near Sidon seventeen years ago.
"We have a lot of motivation and reasons to look into Arad's fate", he told the paper.
To step up the process of the swap, Hizbullah recently allowed a German mediator to see Israeli captive Elhanan Tenenbaum to make sure he is alive and well and to carry a written letter from the Israeli retired army colonel to his relatives in Israel, Nasrallah said.
In exchange, Israel allowed the mediator to visit Obeid and Dirani in their prison cell and carry letters from them to their families in Lebanon.
Nasrallah added that one Hizbullah condition to finalize the deal was a pledge from Israel to help reveal the fate of three Iranian diplomats and their Lebanese driver, who went missing at a Lebanese Christian militia checkpoint as they were fleeing Israel's occupation of Beirut in 1982.
Meanwhile, Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger is expected to leave Monday for Kazakhstan to discuss the release of
the Israeli airman Arad with Iranian delegates.
Metzger told policemen during a Jewish holiday toast at police headquarters that he was headed to a meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, after which he would be leaving for the Muslim country to meet with an Iranian delegate, and a top representative of Saudi Arabia's king, as well as with Christian representatives.
The meeting's aim is to make headway on the release of the Israeli hostages, especially Ron Arad. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)