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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Israel sees hope in UN videos
A Knesset delegation to the US calls for the release of Israelis held by Hezbollah in Lebanon
Israel wants its abducted soldiers back
Israel's ambassador to the UN has said controversial videos relating to an abduction of three of its soldiers in south Lebanon last year show "room for hope".

Ambassador Yehuda Lancry was speaking after he and Israeli army officials finally got to see the videos, which have been at the centre of a diplomatic wrangle between the UN, Israel and Lebanon.

"We viewed some stains in the vehicles and on the items, and in our opinion we think there was no significant quantity of blood.

"It was a difficult moment... but I rather think there is room for hope than any other situation," the ambassador said.

The videos, one of which was filmed by UN peacekeepers, may contain information about what happened to three Israeli soldiers who were abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas last October.

Indian UN peacekeeper near Shebaa farms
UN peacekeepers in Lebanon shot the controversial footage

UN mistakes

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered Israel access to the videos after a recently published UN report acknowledged that senior UN officials had made mistakes in their handling of the whole affair.

The UN initially denyied that the the films existed.

A date has yet to be set for two or three more screenings of the videos, for families of the soldiers and Israeli forensic experts.

Contents

The first video was recorded by Indian peacekeepers, the day after the abduction of the Israeli soldiers.

It is said to show the interior and contents of two vehicles which may have been used in the abduction. It also shows blood inside the vehicles, which may have come from wounds to some of the occupants.

The second video was discovered in the course of a more recent UN investigation and is said to show puffs of smoke on the horizon, that may have come from an explosion close to where the abduction took place.

Hezbollah supporters throw rocks at Israeli position at Fatima Gate
Hizbollah supporters say the UN must not "spy" for Israeli
The Israeli team of experts were also be given access to seven bloodstained articles taken from the two vehicles.

UN peacekeepers took a total of 51 items from the vehicles, the rest of which are being held in UN offices in the Lebanese town of Naqoura.

Report

Israel's viewing of the videos follows the publication of a report highly critical of the UN's management of the whole affair.

The report says that in the months following the abduction, UN officials made mistakes and failed to tell their superiors about the existence of the video material.

As late as June this year, figures as senior as Mr Annan were still unaware the video material existed.

This left the UN open to accusations from Israel that it was concealing information.

The result has been embarrassing, and has left a severe dent in the UN's credibility as an impartial observer in conflict areas around the world.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"The UN would like to see this as the end of the affair"
UN invesigator Joseph Connor
"Humanitarian requirements were overlooked"
See also:

23 Jul 01 | Middle East
UN opens Lebanon video probe
09 Jul 01 | Middle East
Israel demands UN's Hezbollah tape
24 May 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon one year on
08 Jul 01 | Middle East
Row grows over UN's Hezbollah video
10 Oct 00 | Middle East
Kidnapped Israelis 'alive and well'
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