Names of Palestinian prisoners released

Israel has issued the names of Palestinian detainees set to be released as part of a prisoner swap deal with Lebanese resistance group Hizb Allah.

    Palestinians demonstrate for the release of their relatives

    The names of 400 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, some without trial or charge, were published on Tuesday.

    The full list was posted on the prison service's website in order to allow for any last-minute appeals to the high court before the exchange, which is expected to take place on Thursday.

    Under a German-mediated deal, Israel will release Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab prisoners in exchange for Israeli Elhanan Tannenbaum and three Israeli soldiers, widely presumed to be dead.

    But Hizb Allah Secretary General Sayyid Hasan Nasr Allah alluded that the soldiers might be alive.

    Hizb Allah captured Tannenbaum, who the group says is a Mossad spy, and the soldiers in October 2000. Israel insists Tannenbaum is a businessman.

    The resistance group spearheaded a campaign to oust Israeli forces from south Lebanon in May 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

    Iranian influence

    Meanwhile, officials and diplomats said Iran played a key role in the negotiations. 

    While considered a coup for Hizb Allah, the deal probably would not have concluded without the intervention of Iran which - in the words of German mediator Ernst Uhrlau - used all its "powers of persuasion."

    Nasr Allah paid tribute to Tehran's "cooperation" in securing the deal.

    "The Iranians helped things along. They could have asked us not to pursue the negotiations but they told us to do what we thought necessary," he said on Sunday.

    Nasr Allah said Ron Arad was not
    in Iran or Syria

    Iran and Syria both give what they say is moral support to Hizb Allah. But Washington and Israel accuse Tehran and Damascus of financing and arming the group.

    "There is no doubt that Iran used its influence with Hizb Allah and helped to unblock the negotiations by proposing a two-stage compromise," said one Western diplomat.

    The first phase of the deal includes this week's prisoner exchange, the repatriation to Lebanon of 59 Arab fighters killed and maps of landmines Israel planted in south Lebanon.

    In the second phase Israel will hand over Samir al-Qantar, the longest held Lebanese detainee, in exchange for concrete evidence on the fate of missing Israeli pilot Ron Arad, whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 during the war.

    Nasr Allah said he expected information about Arad and four Iranian diplomats who went missing and are presumed dead, to be available in two or three months.

    He said a committee - which sources in Beirut said would include representatives from Germany, Hizb Allah, Iran and Israel -would be set up in Germany to monitor the second swap.

    Media reports

    "Iran not only provided moral support to Hizb Allah but played a direct and essential role in reaching an accord," said Lebanon's al-Nahar newspaper.

    "It was in Syria's interest to act as conciliator and to demonstrate its good will at a time when it has announced its desire to resume negotiations with Israel and is under US pressure to end its support for Hizb Allah"

    Beirut-based diplomat

    The paper said the deal was linked to diplomatic developments in Iran in recent months, notably an accord with Britain, France and Germany on the Islamic republic's nuclear activities.

    The deal led to Iran last year signing an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing surprise visits of its nuclear facilities by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA.)

    In Tehran, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi described the release of the Arab prisoners as a "great victory for the resistance movement and the Lebanese people and government."

    Diplomats said Syria was also instrumental.

    "It was in Syria's interest to act as conciliator and to demonstrate its good will at a time when it has announced its desire to resume negotiations with Israel and is under US pressure to end its support for Hizb Allah," said a Beirut-based diplomat.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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