Kept in Israeli prisons since 1979, Samir Kantar is serving jail terms totalling 542 years for killing three Israelis during a guerrilla operation.

He spoke to Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV but the station did not say how or when the interview was conducted.

"It is very important that the [Lebanese] government stick to its right to bring back its captives," Kantar said.

"The government must try ... to raise this issue in all international quarters because it is a pending issue that has not been solved yet."

Kantar's family, including his mother and sister, watched the interview at their family home in the mountain village of Aabey 20km southeast of Beirut. They appeared on the split screen as he spoke.

Prisoner's background

The Lebanese prisoner was a member of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

He was captured by Israeli troops on 22 April 1979 as he led a four-member group in an attack on the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, to capture Israelis for a possible swap with Arabs held by Israel.

PFLP member Kantar was injured
and captured in a 1979 operation

Two members of the guerrilla group were killed while Kantar and another member were seriously wounded and captured.

Al-Arabiya said Kantar was moved from jail to jail over the past 27 years before finally settling in the Nafha jail in the Negev desert in southern Israel. It was not clear if the interview was conducted there.

Hopes

Kantar had hoped to have been among some 400 Lebanese and Arab prisoners released by Israel in February 2004.

The release was brokered by a German mediator in exchange for Israeli reserve Colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum who was captured by the resistance organisation Hizb Allah in October 2000.

The bodies of three Israeli soldiers killed during a border clash in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms area were also returned.

Israel said it would not release Kantar before it received information about Ron Arad, an Israeli air force navigator who went missing after his plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986. His fate remains unknown.