UN's Ban details Hezbollah letter on prisoner swap

UN's Ban details Hezbollah letter on prisoner swap

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday released details of a letter he received from Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah outlining his group's conditions for further prisoner deals with Israel.

Last week the leader of the Lebanese guerrilla group made a rare public appearance in Beirut to welcome five Lebanese released from captivity in Israel after Hezbollah returned the bodies of two captured Israeli soldiers, the Reuters reported.

Israel is also due to release Palestinian prisoners in the future as a gesture to the U.N. secretary-general. Nasrallah said he had written to Ban asking him to use his good offices.

In a letter to the current president of the U.N. Security Council, Vietnamese Ambassador Le Lunong Minh, Ban said that Nasrallah "declared his readiness for participation in the remaining humanitarian cases of Israeli MIA (missing in action) of the 1980s."

But Ban said Nasrallah was "conditioning his positive attitude to the nature and extent of Israeli humanitarian moves on behalf of Palestinian and Arab victims."

Ban quoted Nasrallah's letter saying the Hezbollah chief informed him that further prisoner releases by Israel should "be adequate to the high level of government commitment to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the importance of results achieved under the U.N. facilitation."

In other direct quotes from Nasrallah's July 7 letter, Ban said he referred to "the high number of innocent victims caused by the war of 2006," adding that he considered it "as a minimum requirement that the releases comprise a maximum number of minors, women and elderly people being held in ... detention."

These cases "go into the hundreds" according to non-governmental organizations, Ban quoted Nasrallah's letter as saying.

These must be resolved immediately in order to secure Hezbollah's support in other humanitarian cases, Nasrallah wrote to Ban.

Under last week's deal arranged by a U.N.-appointed German mediator, Israel also returned the bodies of eight Hezbollah fighters slain in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, as well as those of four Palestinians, including Dalal Mughrabi, a woman guerrilla who led a 1978 raid on Israel.

In his letter Ban said: "I strongly commend Israel's readiness to engage in another release of Palestinian detainees and welcome Hezbollah's willingness in principle to further contribute to the solution of the humanitarian cases."

Ban said he hoped the next releases lead to "further humanitarian moves."

Hezbollah is a Shi'ite group that is backed by Iran and Syria.

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