Lebanon 'would welcome' German mediation

31st August 2006, Comments 0 comments

31 August 2006, BEIRUT - Lebanon would welcome any "possible German" mediation in settling a prisoner swap between Lebanon and Israel, a government source told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Thursday. "German mediators proved to be successful in the past in similar previous missions," the source who requested anonymity said.

31 August 2006

BEIRUT - Lebanon would welcome any "possible German" mediation in settling a prisoner swap between Lebanon and Israel, a government source told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Thursday.

"German mediators proved to be successful in the past in similar previous missions," the source who requested anonymity said.

Asked if the Germans have offered their expertise in this regard, the source said: "We had some contacts with the Germans and they asked if we think their mediations would be accepted and the response was positive."

Germany brokered a January 2004 deal which saw Israel exchange 429 Arab prisoners for the release of an Israeli businessman captured by Hezbollah and the remains of three soldiers.

The source told dpa that if the Germans "work with the same expert team they will be (successful) this time."

But the source stressed that the German negotiators usually work "with total secrecy and that is why they are usually efficient and trusted by both factions involved in the swap."

The Lebanese daily As Safir reported Thursday that a high-ranking German security team was to arrive in Beirut to discuss a possible swap between Hezbollah and Israel.

The paper, quoting a high-ranking Lebanese source, said that the team will meet with the director general of Lebanese Security, General Wafik Jezzini.

The Hezbollah press office refused to comment on the report.

But according to a Lebanese security source the German delegation would meet with Lebanese Shiite House Speaker Nabih Berri who was assigned by Hezbollah to negotiate a possible swap on their behalf.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had told the private Lebanese television channel NTV earlier this week that indirect talks had recently begun with parliament speaker Nabih Berri acting as an intermediary in the prisoners issue.

When he announced the capture of the two soldiers, Nasrallah said he was ready to exchange them for Arabs held in Israel.

Hezbollah snatched two Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon on July 12, prompting the Jewish state to launch a wide-scale offensive against Lebanon that ended by a UN-brokered ceasefire on August 14.

Hezbollah minister in the Lebanese cabinet, Mohammed Fneish, said on Wednesday that the movement will not accept any unconditional release of the two Israeli soldiers.

He said the movement would like to engage in indirect negotiations for a prisoner swap in which Hezbollah would return the Israeli hostages for all Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.

The report in the daily As Safir, came after German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier dismissed reports on Monday that Berlin had brokered a deal between Israel and Hezbollah for a prisoner swap, saying Germany was playing no part in any such talks.

On Sunday the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram also reported that Germany had shepherded negotiations between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia and that an exchange would take place within two or three weeks.

According to As Safir's report, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had met with Ernst Uhrlau, the German mediator involved in the last Israeli-Arab prisoners swap, during her visit to Berlin earlier this week. Uhrlau is now chief of Germany's intelligence agency BND.

DPA

Subject: German news

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