Peres. Encouraging message
Photo: Amir Cohen
Reproduction photo: Hagai Aharon
WASHINGTON – Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who is currently in Washington to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told journalists that as far as he knows the two soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah, Ehud Goldwasser and Gilad Regev, are still alive.
Peres said that as far as he knew, the abductees are alive and well and added that he is basing his assessment on several sources. Speaking to correspondents at the US capital, Peres said the responsibility for the soldiers' well being and their unconditional release lies with the government of Lebanon, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
Turning his attention to Hizbullah declarations that the group does not intend to withdraw from south Lebanon or disarm, instead opting to hide its weapons, Peres said that a Hizbullah refusal to comply with the ceasefire agreement would lead to the issue being referred to the Security Council.
Peres stressed that Hizbullah is not merely an Israeli problem, but rather, an intra-Lebanese problem. He added that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora would lose the war if the Lebanese army does not deploy in southern Lebanon as promised.
The vice premier estimated that as south Lebanon is a relatively small region, 30,000 Lebanese troops assisted by multinational forces would suffice to neutralize Hizbullah.
During his visit to the US, Peres also revealed that Israel enabled Arab countries to transport airborne humanitarian aid through Israeli airspace during the war. He refused to say, however, how many such flights took places and which Arab countries used the opportunity to transport aid to Lebanon.