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Copyright 1991 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

October 2, 1991


BYLINE: David Rudge

ROSH HANIKRA - A solution to the hostage and MIAs issue could take 10 to 20 years to be reached, Hizbullah's leader said yesterday. He also told a Beirut news conference his organization was not yet ready to return "even one corpse" of missing IDF servicemen to Israel.

Abbas Musawi, general secretary of the radical fundamentalist Moslem group, said the issue was still at the stage of exchanging information.

"The issue of the hostages and the prisoners is heading toward a solution, but things are in the initial stage. There are complications and counter-complications, conditions and counter-conditions," Musawi said at Hizbullah's headquarters in Beirut's southern slum suburb of Bir el-Abed.

"It is a real battle and all the means of a real battle will be deployed in it until we manage to close this file, even after 10 or 20 years," the black-turbaned Musawi added.

He told news agency reporters that the factions holding hostages and prisoners had to set conditions and ensure that a "price" was paid for every stage in the process, even for the release of "minor information."

He reportedly charged that the recent release of 51 Lebanese prisoners from the El-Khiyam jail inside the security zone in south Lebanon and the return by Israel of the bodies of nine Hizbullah gunmen was insufficient.

The detainees were freed and the bodies returned to Lebanon in exchange for information relayed to Israel via UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar which provided conculsive proof that one of the missing servicemen Rahamim Alsheikh was dead.

Israel has accused Iran of reneging on commitments to de-Cuellar, who is heading the international efforts to solve the hostages and MIA's affair, to supply irrefutable details regarding the fate of another soldier Yossi Fink. He was captured along with Alsheikh in a Hizbullah ambush inside the security zone in 1986.

Israel is also still awaiting information about the fate of IAF navigator Ron Arad who ejected from his plane over Lebanon later the same year (1986).

Musawi's comments yesterday appeared to be in response to Israel's charge that the ball was in the Iranian/Hizbullah court and that Israel, although ready and willing, would not make any further gestures until it received the promised information about Fink, as well as missing South Lebanese Army soldiers.

Musawi was asked by reporters at the Beirut press conference yesterday whether Fink was still alive. The leader of the pro-Iranian fundamentalist Shi'ite organization replied that he was not prepared to disclose any information via the media.

Musawi also indicated that the Hizbullah wanted hundreds of Palestinians and pro-Syrian Palestinians detained by Israel for intifada offences to be included in any future package deal.

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