Wife of Missing Israeli Airman Meets U.N. Chief, Visits Iranians

The wife of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad emerged from a meeting here Thursday with the outgoing U.N. secretary-general saying she is confident he is doing all he can to bring home her husband.

Tami Arab said the U.N. chief, Javier Perez de Cuellar, told her he “believes my husband is alive and that he will make a very large effort for his release.”

Earlier in the week, Arad had criticized the United Nations for not doing enough to win the release of her husband, who was captured in October 1986 after his aircraft exploded over Lebanon. He is now held by pro-Iranian forces.

Joining Arad at the meeting Thursday were families of other Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon. The meeting represented a heightening of the public campaign for the MIA’s release now that the last U.S. hostages in Lebanon are free.

Another step in that campaign was a demonstration held Thursday across from the United Nations and a march to the Iranian Mission, where Arad succeeded in presenting a letter asking for her husband’s freedom.

Arad said Perez de Cuellar, whose term ends Dec. 31, promised that he would continue his efforts, and those of special envoy Giandomenico Picco, past the new year if necessary. Picco is now in the Middle East for discussions with Iran.

IRANIAN OFFICIAL STARTLED

Also meeting with the secretary-general were members of the Israel’s U.N. Mission, including Ambassador Yoram Aridor, and the parents of missing Israeli soldiers Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz. Katz and Feldman, along with Zachary Baumel, are believed to have been captured by the Syrians following a tank battle in June 1982.

Syria has consistently denied knowledge of their whereabouts, and Israeli hostage negotiators are not optimistic that they remain alive.

Nevertheless, Joseph Katz said he remained confident his son was alive. “The secretary-general said we should not believe all kinds of bad evidence,” he said.

At the U.N. rally, sponsored by the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, Sen. Alfonse D’amato (R-N.Y.) criticized the Bush administration’s rapprochement with Syria “so long as Syria holds Israeli soldiers captive.”

Following the rally, Arad, the other MIA families and JCRC leaders marched to the Iranian Mission to present the ambassador with the letter calling for her husband’s release.

They originally were told they could not proceed up to the mission offices, but after insisting they had an urgent message to deliver, they procured two passes enabling Arab and a photographer to ascend.

“You’re holding my husband hostage,” Arad told a surprised Iranian receptionist, giving her the envelope containing the letter and photographs of her husband, before being returned downstairs by security personnel.

At the Syrian Mission, Arad left a similar package at the front desk.

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