GENEVA (Jun. 19)
The International Red Cross received today a formal request from the United States to ask Israel to release 766 Shiite Moslems currently in a prison camp in Israel in order to obtain the release of about 40 American airline passengers held hostage by Shiite hijackers in Beirut.
The immediate reaction of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquartered here was not to become involved. An ICRC spokesman said the role of the international humanitarian relief agency was not to act as a mediator between states that have diplomatic relations. His reference was to the United States and Israel.
President Reagan said at his White House press conference last night that the U.S. will not “ask nor pressure any other government” to make concessions to the hijackers of TWA Flight 847, a clear reference to Israel. When asked “has the International Red Cross been dealing with them (the Israelis) for us” he said that was an area “that I can’t talk about.”
President Reagan is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Alexander Hay, president of the ICRC. The Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Efraim Dubek, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Israel was not ready to accept ICRC mediation and expected the U.S. to apply directly to Israel on the matter.
Israel is not willing to negotiate via the Red Cross, Dubek said. Neither he nor the ICRC seem to believe that a prisoners-for-hostages exchange, if and when effected, will be through the Red Cross.