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Copyright 1991 Reuters

December 31, 1991


BYLINE: By Marjorie Olster


The wife of Israeli airman Ron Arad, missing since his plane was shot down over south Lebanon in 1986, said she feared Western countries had forgotten him now most of their Lebanon hostages had been freed.

"As the years go by I am less optimistic. Every year it's the same. Despite all that was done, we are in the exact same place as a year ago," Tami Arad told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I don't see a way out, a solution. No one is occupied with it too much anymore. No one wants to help us," she said.

Arad is the only one of four Israeli servicemen missing in Lebanon believed to still be alive.

Israel hoped to receive the four servicemen and bodies of two others confirmed dead in an overall swap including Western hostages and Shi'ite Moslem prisoners held by the Jewish state.

But hopes were dashed when the last American hostage, journalist Terry Anderson, was freed this month without news on the fate of the Israelis.

Israel's chief hostage negotiator Uri Lubrani said last week he was frustrated and disappointed that U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar had not won freedom for the Israelis before leaving office at year's end.

Ori Slonim, another Israeli hostage negotiator, said Israel knew of no progress on its missing but would soon receive a report from U.N. envoy Giandomenico Picco.

"We will not let the world forget. We will not be quiet until they take action," he said.

The U.N. said an Israeli commando raid in south Lebanon earlier this month in which three Lebanese civilians were mistakenly abducted had harmed its hostage negotiations.

Two German aid workers are the last Western hostages in Lebanon.

During the past year, Israel received the body of missing soldier Samir Assad and confirmation from the pro-Iranian Hizbollah (Party of God) that two others, Yossi Fink and Rahamim Al-Sheikh, were dead.

It has received no word on Arad or soldiers Zvi Feldman, Zachary Baumel and Yehuda Katz, captured in 1982.

Earlier this month, Tami Arad and her six-year-old daughter met Perez de Cuellar at the United Nations in New York to press the Israelis' cases.

"It's less meaningful to the Western world now," she said, "...I don't know what else I can do to free Ron."

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