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Iran claims Israel’s posture blocked search for airman

JERUSALEM, Dec. 19 (JTA) — Senior Iranian officials have charged that hard-line positions by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have blocked progress in efforts to secure information about missing Israeli airman Ron Arad. Israeli officials denied the charges, which appeared this week in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Because of Netanyahu’s stubbornness, the Arad matter will not be concluded by the end of the year, as was planned,” sources close to Tehran were quoted as saying. Arad’s fighter plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986. The publication also quoted officials in Bonn who are involved in German efforts to obtain information about Arad as saying that little progress was being made in the contacts. Senior Israeli officials negotiating Arad’s release denied the report’s claims. According to these sources, the parties who were holding Arad, not Jerusalem, were responsible for creating difficulties. Israeli officials have repeatedly maintained that Iran is holding him. Iranian officials quoted in the article said they recently received hints from Syria that Damascus, and not organizations operating in Lebanon, held the key to information on Arad’s fate. According to the Iranian sources, Syria had requested that Arad, if released, not reveal where he had been held. Netanyahu’s representative rejected this request, the sources said. Netanyahu’s political adviser, Dore Gold, denied the claims.

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