Israeli cabinet debates Hezbollah prisoner swap

Topping the release roster is Samir Qantar, who is serving a life sentence for a 1979 border raid and whom Israeli officials previously described as the last "bargaining chip" for the return of missing Israeli soldiers Ron Arad.

Israeli cabinet debates Hezbollah prisoner swap
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sought the government's go-ahead on Sunday for a prisoner swap with Hezbollah to get two soldiers.

Israeli media said Olmert would win a majority vote for the German-mediated deal at the cabinet session, despite arguments against trading live Lebanese prisoners in light of intelligence assessments that the soldiers are dead.

"This is a matter of the highest moral order," Olmert said in broadcast remarks to the ministers before the debate, which was expected to take around two or three hours.

Through a U.N.-appointed German negotiator, Israel has offered to free five Lebanese fighters and repatriate the remains of around 10 people in exchange for Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Topping the release roster is Samir Qantar, who is serving a life sentence for a 1979 border raid and whom Israeli officials previously described as the last "bargaining chip" for the return of missing Israeli soldiers Ron Arad.

Hezbollah has said little about the indirect negotiations, but a Lebanese political source said this month that the final touches were being put on the swap deal.

Asked about media reports that the exchange could take place within two weeks, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defence chief, told Israel Radio: "Whether it happens on the 11th or the 12th (of July) is not critical ... What's important is that we get this done as soon as possible."

Reuters
Last Mod: 29 Haziran 2008, 19:19
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