Sharon rules out early prisoner swap

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ruled out a prisoner swap with the Lebanese militia Hizb Allah before the end of next week.

    Ariel Sharon thinks Europe-held Arab prisoners may be bargaining chips

    The family of missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad, opposed to the release of one of his Hizb Allah captors now held in Israel, was granted access by the state to a large part of the file, official sources said.

    Arad's family had filed suit against Hizb Allah's Mustafa Dirani and complained that the fate of the aviator, whose plane came down over Lebanon in 1986 and is widely believed dead, was being neglected.

    But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told public television on Thursday night that prisoners held in Europe over terrorism charges could be used as bargaining chips for any information on Arad.

    "We have good bargaining chips, in which the Iranians are interested, and in which Hizb Allah is very, very, very interested," Sharon said, referring to the Lebanese Shia guerrilla group.

    "They are in a European country, and this is part of the deal ... They carried out terror attacks."

    Held in Germany

     

    Palestinian and Arab media reported during the week that Israel could release up to 400 prisoners, including 185 Lebanese, Syrians and Jordanians.

    Germany, which has been the main mediator for the long-awaited prisoner swap, holds three Lebanese and one Iranian convicted in 1997 for the assassination five years earlier in a Berlin restaurant of Iranian Kurdish dissident Sadeq Sarafkindi.

    When contacted by French news agency AFP, the German foreign ministry refused to comment.

    Palestinian and Arab media reported during the week that Israel could release up to 400 prisoners, including 185 Lebanese, Syrians and Jordanians.

    In October 2000, Hizb Allah captured three Israeli soldiers - whom Israel believes are dead - in a disputed border area. They also seized businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum, a reserve colonel whom the guerrilla group alleges was a spy.

    SOURCE: AFP


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