A senior Red Cross envoy said Tuesday he had passed on to the Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist group Hizbollah information from Israel about Lebanese prisoners there.
Hizbollah has been calling for the release of all Arab prisoners in Israel, particularly Lebanese militants captured during Israel's 22-year occupation of south Lebanon.
"There have been a number of elements I have transmitted" to Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hizbollah's number two man, said Angelo Gnaedinger, the Europe and Middle East delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
After a meeting with Sheikh Naim as part of ICRC efforts to secure the release of prisoners on both sides, he said he had asked in vain to see Israeli prisoners held in Lebanon, but that the ICRC had been able to see all but one of the Lebanese being held in Israel.
"We are fulfilling our role of facilitating the process to lead to serious negotiations on all aspects related to these cases, and that will hopefully lead us to have access to these people and their release and repatriation," he said.
He also passed on the content of discussions he had held in Israel, saying the Lebanese detainees in Israel "now should be repatriated without delay to Lebanon.
He added: "We are concerned by the Israeli soldiers that had been captured recently by Hizbollah and by (reserve colonel) Mr. Tannenbaum, who we understand had been brought here."
Hizbollah captured three Israeli soldiers in early October in the disputed Shabaa Farms, claimed by Lebanon, but occupied by Israel. The three taken were Sergeant Majors Omar Suad and Avraham Binyamin, and Sergeant Adi Abitan.
On October 18, Hizbollah said it had captured an Israeli colonel working for Israeli intelligence who had entered Lebanon on a false passport.
In Israel, he was identified as Elhanan Tannenbaum, a reserve colonel specializing in electronics.
For its part, Israel is holding 19 Lebanese. The ICRC said it was able to visit all of them except for fundamentalist leader Hajj Mustafa Dirani.
The ICRC representative said he was on the last day of his trip to the Middle East which had included a week in Israel and the Palestinian Territories "to update the ICRC on recent tension and development in the area. "The situation of the civilian population concerns us a lot in Gaza and West bank," he said -- BEIRUT (AFP)
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