UNIFIL Spokesman Rejects Charges That Hezbollah Bribed Soldiers

UNIFIL spokesman Timor Goksel rejected Thursday morning the accusations made by the Ma'ariv daily under which the United Nations soldiers received bribes from the militant Hezbollah organization in return for co-operation in the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers last October.

"Any hint of such an accusation without proof is an insult," Goksel said. "It is very easy to doubt people and their credibility and to blame them for this or that... I completely reject all the accusations."

According to the Ma'riv report, a senior security source said that Hezbollah had bribed several Indian UNIFIL soldiers with hundreds of thousands of dollars, so that they would take part in the kidnapping. The source said that secret negotiations were held between Hezbollah and the Indian soldiers prior to the kidnapping, in order to ensure the soldiers' co-operation.

Israeli investigators who were sent to India to question the soldiers were told that Hezbollah had paid the soldiers large sums of money to co-operate in the kidnapping.

A senior source close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon confirmed the report and said that the UN was embarrassed over the issue and that the latest details would shock the organization. However, Israel has no information connecting either the Indian unit' commanders or other UNIFIL officials to the incident.