U.S. had concerns about Shalit swap

Oct. 18, 2011 at 7:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The United States had concerns about some Palestinian prisoners Israel freed to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday.

But State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington he was unaware of any Palestinians not being released because of the unspecified U.S. concerns.

Toner said U.S. officials reviewed the list of 477 prisoners before they were released.

"I would just say that we have looked at some of these individuals. And we've communicated our position after we became aware that specific individuals have been identified as part of this release," Toner said.

He said while the United States was not part of the negotiations that led to the release of Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas since he was abducted in 2006, "we've communicated our position to the Israeli government."

Asked whether the United States had raised concerns that some of the prisoners potentially posed a threat or had objected to their release, Toner replied: "Both."

Toner declined to provide specifics of the U.S. concerns, saying only "we had concerns in both spheres, if you will."

The State Department spokesman said "it's difficult for us to say" whether the Shalit deal improved chances for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"I can't say whether this is going to lead in that direction or not," Toner said. "We would just want to see gestures on the part of both sides to build that kind of constructive atmosphere."

Toner said the fact Israel negotiated with Hamas, a group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, would not lead the Obama administration to rethink its policy against talking with Hamas officials.

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