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Israel Urges for Hostages' Release
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Israel's Foreign Minister on Tuesday urged nations to press the Lebanese Prime Minister to work for the unconditional release of two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah.

In an interview broadcast on Germany's ZDF television, Tzipi Livni stressed that the release should be unconditional.

Hezbollah guerrillas killed three Israeli soldiers and seized two more in a cross-border raid on July 12, sparking the 34-day war that resulted in a UN-sanctioned ceasefire on August 14.

"The demand in the UN Security Council was for an immediate, unconditional release of the soldiers, and those are our expectations too," Livni said.

"At the moment, we expect from everyone... that they turn to Lebanese Prime Minister (Fuad) Saniora and call on him to take responsibility and take care of freeing the kidnapped soldiers."

Germany has a history of mediating between Hezbollah and Israel regarding prisoner exchanges.

However, when Livni visited Berlin on Monday, her German counterpart denied a report that German officials were already in contact with the group in an attempt to free the soldiers.
"In the past, Germany has played a very important role in negotiations with Hezbollah, but at the moment what is important is simply to free the soldiers," Livni added.

1986 hostage still alive?

Livni's comments came as previously unseen video footage raised hopes that an Israeli airman captured by Lebanese guerrillas in 1986 might still be alive.

Airman Ron Arad was captured after his plane was brought down over Lebanon. Since then, he has become a symbol in Israel for prisoners of war, and his picture still appears on bumper stickers and posters.

But despite his image being so widely publicized, Israeli intelligence officers have not been able to determine what happened to him or his whereabouts.

However on Monday Lebanese TV station LBC broadcast a promotion for a documentary on Arad, including footage reportedly shot before 1989.

The new images from the promo were rebroadcast over and over on Israeli TV stations, riveting audiences eager for new information on the missing airman.

Israeli security officials have operated on the assumption that Arad is still alive, saying Israel has never received conclusive proof of his death.

The new footage does not provide additional information on Arad, but underscores how little Israeli intelligence knows about what happened to him, officials said.

"The only thing that it shows us is the fact that there are a lot of things that we don't know," legislator Ami Ayalon, who once headed the domestic Shin Bet security service, told Israel Army Radio.

An Israeli producer who has researched the Arad case for years and viewed the entire raw footage, including Arad speaking in Hebrew, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he believes the clip is real.

"I'm not an expert and I had a lot of suspicions but in my gut I think it's authentic material," said Naftali Glecksberg, who worked with French and Lebanese filmmakers to produce the documentary. "It doesn't only look like him... it sounds like Ron Arad."

(China Daily August 30, 2006)


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