US Senators Demand Information about Israeli POWs in Lebanon as UN Ready to Release Report
The families of the Israelis taken prisoners by Lebanon’s Hizbollah met Thursday night in Washington with Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns and four senior senators, reported Haaretz.
Following the meeting, two of the senators published a statement demanding that the soldiers be treated well and that their families be told of their whereabouts. Also taking part in the meeting was Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg.
The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, promised to work towards attaining information on the soldiers and blamed Hizbollah in violating international laws. Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said that he submitted a Senate resolution on the kidnapped Israelis.
"This is an issue that doesn't have anything to do with events in Israel. It has everything to do with the treatment of people who are prisoners," said McCain.
Afterwards the families of the kidnapped persons took part in a press conference with the senators. Several demonstrators gathered nearby to protest Israel's policies against the Palestinians, carrying signs reading "Free Palestinian POWs in Israel" and "Stop US Aid to Israel," according to the paper.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that a report by the United Nations about its handling of a videotape filmed by peacekeepers in southern Lebanon the day after three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped will be made available to the public.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has completed his review of the report, his spokesman Fred Eckhard said, and has asked its author, Joseph Connor, the undersecretary general for management, to brief the Security Council Friday morning and the press immediately afterwards.
Annan "asked that the report be made available in full as an unofficial document both to Council members and to the press."
Last October, three Israeli soldiers patrolling the disputed area known as Shebaa Farms were captured by Hezbollah in the occupied Shabba farms..
The following day, UN peacekeepers from India caught on videotape UN efforts to remove two abandoned cross-country vehicles, marked with bloodstains and carrying false UN plates, and their interception by a group of armed men, allegedly from Hizbollah.
After denying its existence for months, an "embarrassed" UN admitted July 5 it had a 30-minute film, and later offered Israel the possibility of seeing an edited version, in which the faces of the suspected Hizbollah members had been blurred.
The seven-member commission that traveled to Lebanon was also asked to investigate allegations the peacekeepers had been bribed by Hizbollah to allow the kidnapping, something "vigorously denied" by the spokesman for the UN force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL – Albawaba.com
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