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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 10:24 GMT
Israel prisoner deal 'not enough'
Coffins of Hezbollah fighters return to southern Lebanon
Israel handed over the bodies of two Hezbollah fighters in August
The leader of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah appears to have rejected Israel's offer of a prisoner exchange.

Hassan Nasrallah said he stood by his demands for all Lebanese prisoners held by Israel to be released.

The Israeli cabinet narrowly approved an exchange over the weekend, but ruled out releasing those convicted of killing Israelis.

Mr Nasrallah said any prisoner exchange had to include Samir Kantar, jailed for 24 years for killing an Israeli family.

"The conditions and demands of Hezbollah are clear, precise and public, and we remain set on them in all respects," he said in a statement broadcast by Hezbollah's al-Manar television.

Missing airman

Under pressure from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 12 ministers voted for the accord, while 11 opposed it.

Kidnapped Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum
Elhanan Tannenbaum was kidnapped in October 2000
Israel agreed to hand over about 20 Lebanese and 400 Palestinian prisoners in return for Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers. But Mr Sharon specifically rejected releasing Kantar.

Mr Tannenbaum, who is also a reserve colonel in the Israeli army, was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 2000.

Israeli media said information on the fate of missing airman Ron Arad - shot down over Lebanon in 1986 - was also expected to be included under any deal.

'Evenly split'

Israel is holding about 20 Lebanese detainees, including Shia Muslim leaders Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, who is reported to have been directly involved in Arad's capture.

Before the cabinet decision was taken, Mr Nasrallah had warned: "Any deal that excludes any Lebanese prisoner will be refused and the exchange will not happen."

The cabinet was almost evenly split on what has become one of the most divisive issues in Israel, says the BBC's David Chazan in Jerusalem.

He reports that the Israeli prime minister put his ministers under pressure to vote in favour, despite his stated policy of refusing to deal with those Israel considers terrorists.

The 11 ministers who voted against the German-mediated exchange argued that it could strengthen Hezbollah and encourage militants to kidnap more Israelis.




SEE ALSO:
Israelis approve Hezbollah swap
09 Nov 03  |  Middle East
Israel frees Hezbollah prisoner
10 Jun 02  |  Middle East
Hezbollah offers Israeli hostage deal
11 Apr 02  |  Middle East
Israel declares seized soldiers dead
02 Nov 01  |  Middle East
Israeli captive 'lured' by Hezbollah
17 Oct 00  |  Middle East
Who are Hezbollah?
04 Apr 02  |  Middle East


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