A prisoner swap will also include Syrian and Jordanian detainees being held in Israeli prisons, said Nasr Allah on Wednesday in Beirut at the opening of a media conference in support of the Palestinians.

“We are about to finish the stage of numbers to get into the names and criteria,” he said.

Over the past three years the main conflict was over “the principle of including Palestinian detainees” in the German-mediated talks, said Nasr Allah.

“Decisive weeks lie ahead of us,” he added.

The resistance movement’s chief described the latest negotiations with Israel as the most favourable in the recent past, although there were still some complications. He did not elaborate.

Israel holds about 19 Lebanese detainees, many without trial or charge. Hizb Allah seized three Israeli soldiers in October 2000 from the occupied Shiba Farms as bargaining chips.

A few weeks later the group captured Elhanen Tannenbaum, who it says is a Mossad agent lured to Beirut. Israel insists he is a businessman.

Deal in works

Fighters' remains were handed
over by Israel through the ICRC

In a surprise move, Israel repatriated two bodies of Hizb Allah fighters in August. The handover was seen as a precursor to a possible prisoner exchange.

Israeli media reported the deal came after German mediator Ernst Uhrlau was allowed to visit Tannenbaum and said he was in good health.

Israel kidnapped two leading Hizb Allah figures, Shaikh Abd al-Karim Ubeid and Mustafa Dirani in 1989 and 1994 respectively from Lebanon. It continues to hold them as bargaining chips for the return of Israeli navigator Ron Arad, whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986.

Hizb Allah ousted Israeli soldiers from south Lebanon in May 2000, following a 22-year occupation. Washington lists the resistance group as a “terrorist” organisation, a charge Hizb Allah denies.