Israel Losing Patience with U.N. over Effort to Free Missing Airman

Israel appears to be losing patience with the United Nations’ apparent failure to obtain information about Israeli servicemen missing in action in Lebanon.

In what appears to be a stepped-up public campaign, the wife of missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad will lead a demonstration outside the United Nations on Tuesday.

Israel is especially upset by the lack of progress made by outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who successfully brokered the release this month of the last American hostages held by Islamic groups in Lebanon.

Uri Lubrani, Israel’s chief hostage negotiator, took Perez de Cuellar to task in what was described as a “difficult discussion” of the issue last Friday, according to a report in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

Lubrani co-chairs the Israeli team currently talking peace with a Lebanese delegation in Washington.

Perez de Cuellar had expressed optimism that all hostages, including Israeli MIAs held in Lebanon, would be accounted for by the time his tenure expired.

But he leaves office in two weeks with Israel as much in the dark as ever over the whereabouts of Arad and the fate of his fellow missing servicemen.

Lubrani and other members of the Israeli team were angered when the secretary-general and his aide, Giandomenico Picco, were honored by President Bush at a ceremony last Thursday for their role in freeing American hostages.

Neither Bush nor Perez de Cuellar alluded to the Israelis still in captivity. Lubrani contacted Perez de Cuellar the next day to complain.

Shortly afterward, the United Nations issued a news release saying that the “secretary-general is working hard on the matter of Arad, who is an important key to solving the issue of the hostage crisis and remaining prisoners.”

Capt. Arad, an air force navigator shot down over Lebanon in 1986, is the only one of the Israeli MIAs presumed to be alive. But Israel has been unable to find out where and by whom he is being held.

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