Israel has rejected an offer by Hizbullah to swap one of three captured Israeli soldiers for a number of Lebanese and Arab prisoners held in Israel, the leader of the Lebanese group said Thursday.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was blocking a prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah for political reasons.
"The reasons which prevented reaching results in negotiations on the prisoner swap are political ones par excellence on the Israeli side rather than humanitarian reasons," Nasrallah told a gathering in Beirut.
"In my assessment and through my follow up of this file, I think the Sharon government is facing extreme political difficulties in this matter," he said.
"If a partial agreement is reached for the release of all the Lebanese detainees and a large number of Arab and Palestinian prisoners ... , this will be a major victory for the resistance (Hizbullah) in Lebanon and the resistance and intifada (uprising) in Palestine," Nasrallah declared.
"I don't think that Sharon or even (former prime minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is ready at this stage to allow such a victory."
In his speech, Nasrallah said that Hizbullah a few weeks ago proposed through the German mediators a partial solution to the prisoner issue.
Under the proposal, Hizbullah would release one of the three Israeli soldiers — whether he is alive or dead — in return for an undetermined number of Lebanese and Arab prisoners to be negotiated with the Israelis.
"If the soldier is alive, we will release him. If he is dead, we will hand over his body," Nasrallah said. "But the Israelis a few days ago formally told (the German mediators) that they are not ready to discuss this principle. This means that they are not ready either for a partial solution or for a comprehensive solution due to their political circumstances."
The number of prisoners to be released by Israel under the proposal had led to "the negotiations to be frozen," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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