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Copyright 2002 United Press International

January 19, 2002

HEADLINE: Iran Said to Hold Missing Israeli Airman

BYLINE: Joshua Brilliant

Iran has been holding an Israeli airman who was captured in Lebanon in 1986, a former head of Israel's Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, said in a television broadcast Saturday night. Shavit said the issue became complicated "from day one when the Iranians denied all contact," in remarks carried by Channel 2 TV.

The airman, Ron Arad, bailed out of his Phantom jet during a bombing run over Lebanon on Oct. 16, 1986, was caught by local guerrillas, and disappeared in 1987.

Shavit said Israel has intelligence-quality evidence that the Iranians have him. "There is a consensus, more or less, about his whereabouts though it is not at the level of legal proof," he said.

The Iranians denied having Arad, time passed "and they find themselves in a situation where the more time that passes the greater the damage they will suffer by surfacing him, than had they done so in the beginning," he said.

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