JERUSALEM (Jan. 3)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir indirectly acknowledged today that Israel has had contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization in an effort to free six Israeli soldiers being held as prisoners of war in Lebanon by the PLO.
Shamir told a meeting of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee that Israel was doing “everything” to free the POWs. “Redemption of prisoners runs deep in Judaism,” he said. “Israel rejects no means to achieve this end, and therefore initiated steps which we had disapproved of from the political point of view.”
Shamir refused to disclose any details regarding the negotiations with the PLO, “As long as there are no substantial results, I will not make any announcement,” he said. There had been reports in the media here and abroad during the past week that Israel was negotiating with the PLO over the release of the POWs. Until today, however, there was neither any official confirmation nor denial of these reports Shamir told the Knesset committee today that some of the reports were “inaccurate,” but did not go into detail.
REPORT USSR ARMING SYRIA
On another matter, Shamir said, in reply to a question by Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, that Israel was disturbed and concerned about reports that Syria was being armed with the latest sophisticated weaponry from the Soviet Union.
Peres asked Shamir whether the arms now being sold to Syria had ever been sold to any other country, indicating that the USSR was giving Syria a first crack at using the highly sophisticated arms. The Labor Party leader said that according to reports he heard, the weapons will be operated by Soviet experts.
Referring to his recent trip to Latin America, Shamir denied that discussions were held with government leaders in any of the countries about Israeli arms sales.