Lebanon News

Iran speaker to join efforts to secure release of servicemen

Families of the hostages block a Beirut road on Oct. 22, 2014. (The Daily Star / Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The head of Iran’s parliament will use his office in a bid to help Lebanon negotiate the release of 25 Lebanese servicemen held hostage by militants on the outskirts of Arsal, Speaker Ali Larijani’s foreign policy adviser told The Daily Star Sunday.

“There are some mediators, some governments that have good relations with these terrorists,” Hossein Sheikholeslam said in reference to the ISIS and Nusra Front militants who are holding the 25 Lebanese captive.

“We will probably make some trips to these countries, you will see in the not so very far future,” Sheikholeslam added.

Larijani was in Beirut last week for talks with senior Lebanese officials as part of a six-day tour of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Sheikholeslam accompanied the speaker on the tour.

Sheikholeslam said that Iran had successfully used mediation channels to negotiate the release of 40 Iranian citizens, mainly Revolutionary Guard members, who were taken hostage in Syria in 2012.

The Iranian soldiers were among 48 men captured from a bus in Damascus by Free Syrian Army rebels belonging to the Al-Baraa Brigade. The captives were freed in a prisoner swap that media reports at the time said Qatar and Turkey helped broker.

The 25 Lebanese soldiers and policemen were captured by militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front in Arsal in August.

The militants are said to be demanding the release of Lebanese and Syrian Islamist prisoners held in Lebanon in exchange for the 25 captive servicemen.

Sheikholeslam also expressed Iran’s support for the current dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.

“We welcome the outcome whatever it is,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 29, 2014, on page 3.




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