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UN shows UNIFIL videotapes to families of abducted Israeli soldiers

UN shows UNIFIL videotapes to families of abducted Israeli soldiers

The United Nations today showed family members videotapes and other material related to the abduction of three Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah in October 2000.

In a meeting at the UN offices in Jerusalem, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, showed the families video material and still photographs found in the possession of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) relating to the humanitarian condition of the three soldiers.

Mr. Roed-Larsen also returned to the families a number of personal effects, and items stained with blood which testing procedures, organized under the auspices of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), proved to have belonged to the soldiers.

According to Israeli Defence Force reports, the three soldiers are believed to be no longer alive.

"Today was an emotional and difficult day," Mr. Roed-Larsen said in a statement. "For the families involved, this was the first contact they have had with the items carried by their sons during their tragic abduction over one year ago. Their grief was devastating; their dignity, profoundly moving."

"I shared once again my personal condolences, and those of the United Nations Secretary-General, for the suffering they have experienced," he added.

The Special Coordinator also thanked Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for their personal efforts on behalf of the three families.

Over the past year, UN officials have held a number of meetings with the Government of Israel to determine the procedures for such an encounter to address the families' humanitarian concerns. No items or information of a military nature were shown or handed over to the families, Mr. Roed-Larsen said.

"I do hope that today's events are a further step in restoring good relations between the United Nations and the Government of Israel," the Special Coordinator said. "I can assure the families that the United Nations has not lost sight of the need to continue efforts to seek evidence of what happened to their three sons, or to recover their bodies. The United Nations is fully prepared to contribute to efforts in this regard."