Red Cross emblem talks may pave way for Israeli membership

Efforts to pave the way for Israel's joining the Red Cross movement appeared close to agreement Tuesday as delegates considered creating an additional emblem acceptable to the Israelis, negotiators said. But diplomats said complicating the issue was whether Israel could reach agreement with Syria over the occupied Golan Heights, which would clear the way for full Arab acceptance of the proposed emblem. Delegates of the 192-nation Geneva Conventions were meeting in special session to consider the adoption of a "red crystal" emblem which could be used as an alternative to the red cross or Muslim red crescent used by the organization's societies caring for victims of armed conflict.

"We hope they will succeed," said Antonella Notari, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is supporting the proposal.

Israel's society, known as Magen David Adom, or Red Shield of David, refuses to accept the cross or crescent. Israel's request for recognition of its red Star of David was voted down in 1949 and Arab countries dragged their heels over previous attempts to find an alternative emblem.

Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to international organizations in Geneva, said talks were going well, but Syria and Iran remained holdouts.

"The majority, if not all those who took the floor, were in favor of seeing the emblem adopted," Levanon told The Associated Press after the first day of negotiations. "There was a broad consensus, a broad majority."

A major obstacle to Arab approval was cleared last week when Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent mutually recognized each other, but Syria is looking for a similar accord to let the Syrian Red Crescent provide assistance to the 25,000 Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights.

The Swiss government, which is spearheading the effort to include Israel in the movement, prefers to have unanimous acceptance, but could win approval by a two-thirds majority vote, diplomats said. Magen David Adom has entered last minute negotiations with Syria through Swiss mediators in an effort to sway Arab countries ahead of a possible vote.

"We are still in the middle of negotiations regarding the last details with the demands of the Syrian Red Crescent," Dr. Noam Yifrach, the group's chairman, told Israeli Army Radio. "They are under great Syrian governmental pressure that won't apparently allow them to reach agreement with us,’ reports the AP. I.L.

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