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Hezbollah Agrees to Prisoner Swap With Israel


The leader of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah opposition says his group has agreed to a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

In a televised address Wednesday, Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah will hand over two captured Israeli soldiers who are believed to be dead, in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners in Israel. He said the swap could take place around July 15.

Israel agreed Sunday to free Lebanese prisoners in return for the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev captured in a 2006 cross-border raid.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he believes the soldiers are dead, but Nasrallah declined to confirm this in his remarks today.

Nasrallah said his group also will provide information on a missing Israeli airman as part of the deal. Israeli navigator Ron Arad has been missing since his aircraft was shot down over Lebanon in 1986.

In a separate development today, the British government announced it plans to place the military wing of Hezbollah on its list of banned terrorist organizations.

Britain's Home Office accused the Shi'ite militant group of supporting terrorism in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. It says that the new listing will make it a criminal offense to belong to, raise funds for and encourage support for Hezbollah's military wing.

The ban will not take effect until the British parliament approves it. Hezbollah's external security organization is already included on the terrorist list.

British officials say Hezbollah's political, social and humanitarian activities will remain unaffected.

Nasrallah today said the British move comes as no surprise.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.