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Head of Red Cross Has Little Hope Mideast Problems Will Be Resolved

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The head of the International Red Cross was critical this week of both Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

His chief complaints against the Jewish state, he said, were its continued settlement-building in the West Bank and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Both are problems of long standing and there is little progress toward resolving them, Corneliu Sommaruga, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a year-end interview Monday.

He acknowledged that his organization has an “open dialogue” with the Israelis. But that apparently has not improved conditions for Palestinian prisoners or eased the problems connected with their family visits, he said.

Sommaruga insisted that settlement-building is clearly in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which expressly forbids the settlement of nationals of an occupying power in the territory it has taken by force.

Sommaruga said he was bitterly disappointed that the ICRC conference scheduled to be held in Budapest in November was called off for political reasons, and held the PLO responsible.

The conference was canceled because the PLO insisted on attending as a government delegation, the ICRC president said. He said he spent 90 minutes meeting with PLO chief Yasir Arafat in Tunis trying for a last-minute compromise, but to no avail.

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