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U.S. presses Lebanon on Red Cross

The Bush administration has pressed the United Nations and Lebanon on the failure to allow the Red Cross access to captured Israeli soldiers. “Israel allows visitation rights by the ICRC to people who are identified as Lebanese that are in Israeli captivity,” David Welch, the top State Department envoy to the Middle East, testified Wednesday in Congress, referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross. “There’s no equivalent access afforded to these Israeli soldiers who are held, we believe, by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United Nations has appointed a facilitator to look at this problem, who is working with the secretary-general directly. And despite their best efforts, they have been unable to obtain a sign of life of these soldiers, which of course the families of those affected desperately want.” Welch said he also has pressed Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on the matter dating back to last summer, when the July 12 kidnapping of two soldiers by Hezbollah, a terrorist group that sits in the Lebanese Cabinet, precipitated the 34-day war. “I know his personal intentions are good. And he would also like to be able to deliver a sign of their welfare, but he’s not been able to do that. He lacks the capacity,” Welch said of Siniora.Welch quoted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as saying Hezbollah has made “immoderate demands.”