Prisoner Swap Believed in the Works

An exchange of prisoners between Israel and Shi’ite Moslem factions in Lebanon is expected soon.

The United Nations is reported to be close to arranging a swap of Israeli service personnel — or their remains — for Lebanese and other Arabs in Israeli jails.

They would include Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid, a former spiritual leader of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, who was seized by Israeli commandos in southern Lebanon in 1989.

Reports that an accord may be near were strengthened last week when Giandomenico Picco, a representative of the U.N. secretary-general who helped secure the release of the remaining U.S. and British hostages in Lebanon last year, met here with representatives of the International Red Cross.

They discussed the logistics of the impending prisoner exchange, according to the Swiss daily Journal de Geneve.

The Hezbollah, or Party of God, says it has the remains of two Israel Defense Force soldiers: Rachamim Alsheikh and Yossi Fink, who were killed in Lebanon five years ago.

But it denies knowing the whereabouts of Capt. Ron Arad, an Israeli air force navigator shot down over Lebanon in 1986, who is the only missing Israeli presumed to be alive.

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