JERUSALEM (Jan. 7)
Reversing its previous position, Israel agreed Thursday to allow officials of the International Red Cross to fly over Israeli-controlled territory to see 415 Moslem fundamentalist activists expelled to Lebanon.
News reports said Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who had also refused access through Lebanon, made a similar announcement in Beirut, saying his government would allow Red Cross officials to cross Lebanon’s territory on a “one-time-only” basis to visit the deportees.
The Israeli move was announced just before a second U.N. envoy arrived to underline a Dec. 18 Security Council resolution calling on Jerusalem to take back the deportees.
Under the agreement, Red Cross personnel will fly with the help of U.N. peacekeepers from the Israel-held buffer zone in southern Lebanon for a one-day mission and on a one-time-only basis, the announcement said.
Officials close to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin denied the decision represented a reversal of his previous position on Red Cross visits to the deportees.
They claimed no change had occurred in Rabin’s basic policy of refusing to allow aid to transit to the deportees through the buffer zone in the absence of agreement by Lebanon to facilitate regular supplies through its territory thereafter.
Weather permitting, two Red Cross officials were to fly to the deportees’ encampment Friday morning, boarding a helicopter at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon at Nakoura, just north of the Israeli border with Lebanon.
The Israeli decision was announced as Ambassador Chinmaya Gharekhan, envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, flew in for weekend talks about the deportees.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who was to meet with the envoy Friday, said he hoped for progress toward an agreed solution on the deportees issue.
Earlier this week, in a televised appearance on the ABC News program “Nightline,” Peres said he believed a solution would soon be found.