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Copyright 1995 The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post

February 27, 1995


BYLINE: Batsheva Tsur and Alon Pinkas

Iran is responsible for the fate of missing airman Ron Arad, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared last night, following two more reports that he is being held in Teheran.

"We have a basis to believe that Arad is being held by official Iranian circles, although it is not clear where," Rabin told reporters in Jerusalem, after addressing a UJA mission from Dallas, Texas.

"The Iranians have not given concrete information to either the French or the Germans," Rabin said, "So we cannot say anything definitive. But it is clear that Iran is responsible ... Ron Arad was known to be alive about a year after his capture. We regard Iran as the address for returning him home safe and sound."

He said he understood the distress of the Arad family because of the conflicting information about Ron.

Yesterday, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zietung reported that a Turk who is now a German citizen, and was held until recently in an Iranian jail, said he was told by guards that "an Israeli pilot is held in Ward 209, where all maximum security prisoners are held."

Wuda Olef Skota told the paper that he was never told the Israeli's name, or his condition. The paper continued to claim that German-mediated negotiations between Israel and Iran on the release of Arad were held in Germany.

Meanwhile, another German citizen, Helmut Shimkos, who was imprisoned in the same prison, revealed more details about the whereabouts of Arad yesterday. Shimkos, an engineer, was jailed on suspicion of spying for the CIA.

"In 1991, I was sitting with two Americans, one of whom was a pilot who had some flight magazines. The warder then asked us if we had some magazines to give to another pilot in the prison," he told Channel One. "That made us suspicious and so we asked around to find out who this could be. But we didn't find out anything and we didn't imagine then that it could be Ron Arad."

An official government statement released here said the possibility of Arad being held in an Iranian jail "can be neither refuted nor corroborated, since there are no signs of life given in the testimonies by people who claim to know."

Arad's wife Tami said she would not have anything to say until her husband returns, Channel One reported.

Asked about last year's establishment of a committee to look into the fate of all the MIAS, Rabin said: "It is good that someone that does not deal daily with the subject checks if the path we have chosen is right."

The official statement also said that Iranian authorities have been holding Arad for more than six years and are responsible for his fate, health, and safe return.

"This determination we make is based on reliable and concrete information. Iran has systematically refrained from disclosing any information on Ron Arad, while falsely denying that it has any information concerning him," the statement said.

The Prime Minister's Office, meanwhile, denied that a visit by an aide to Chancellor Helmut Kohl has any connection to Arad. The aide, Joachim Bieterlich, arrived yesterday and is scheduled to meet today with Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Officially, he is here to discuss commercial issues, but diplomatic sources said that he is here to prepare for a possible Kohl visit. The sources said he will be asked to convey a message expressing Israel's dissatisfaction with expanding economic ties between Germany and Iran.

Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Wazi said yesterday that Iran was willing to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty with minor corrections, among them that Iran be eligible to receive advanced nuclear technology from developed countries.

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