Red Cross Meets Lebanese PM over Prisoners Swap With Israel
Prime Minister Salim Hoss met Sunday with Henry Fournier, the Beirut representative of the International Committee for the Red Cross, to discuss a possible prisoner swap between Lebanon and Israel, officials said, quoted by AFP.
AFP had reported that "Western capital" has contacted the Shiite radical Hizbollah movement to negotiate a swap of the three Israeli soldiers seized Saturday for Lebanese detained in Israel, a Beirut paper said Sunday.
"Hizbollah was contacted by a western capital seeking an exchange between this party and Israel," the pro-Syrian As Safir newspaper said without naming the country, quoted by the agency.
"Israel wants first to obtain information about the three soldiers through an international organization and then know about the demands of Hizbollah," the daily said.
As Safir said calls from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud were also meant to facilitate a prisoners' exchange.
Hizbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday his group was ready to exchange the three kidnapped soldiers with Lebanese detainees in Israel.
In a Reuters report Sunday, Hizbollah group took a quick action to bargain on the Israeli soldiers, saying it made contact with German mediators over an exchange of prisoners with Israel.
A source close to the group was quoted by the agency as saying Hizbollah wanted to exchange the Israeli soldiers for 19 Lebanese prisoners and scores of detainees from the Palestinian Muslim groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday threatened decisive action unless Lebanon and its political mentor Syria reined in the pro-Iranian Hizbollah and curbed hostile activity.
Nasrallah retorted to Barak that his group would retaliate strongly and severely if Israel attacked Lebanon. “We will make the enemy understand that Lebanon is not too weak to take revenge,” he said.
“All Zionists, soldiers and settlers would be targets to the attacks of our heroic fighters,” a Hizbollah statement added.
On Saturday, a Hizbollah commando kidnapped the three Israeli soldiers from the Shabaa Farms, a mountainous region at the Lebanese-Syrian borders occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Nineteen Lebanese are still detained in Israel despite the Jewish state's May 24 pullout from southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation.
Among them are Hizbollah senior official Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Islamic leader Mustafa Dirani.
Obeid and Dirani have been detained without charge respectively for 11 years and six years. They were both snatched in separate Israeli commando operations in Lebanon.
Israel is holding Lebanese hostage for the release dead or alive of Israeli servicemen, notably airman Ron Arad, missing in earlier actions in Lebanon -- (Several Sources)
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