"I really think that we were hot on their trail, but the Bush Administration forces were so hostile, so undiplomatic, that in some sense it undermined our ability to make penetration (with Hezbollah)."
Those were the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in a joint interview with NewsMax and the U.N.-video website IcastNews.com.
He was referring to the plight of two Israeli soldiers, kidnapped by Hezbollah last year and who remain missing.
Jackson was visiting U.N. headquarters in NYC on Tuesday to meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and to attend an exhibition celebrating Mahatma Gandhi.
The controversial civil rights leader confirmed for the first time that he had visited Israel, Syria and Lebanon shortly after a cease-fire to a bloody month-long war was brokered by the U.N. Security Council in September 2006.
"Last year, I went to Lebanon and Syria and Israel trying to meet with Hezbollah, with the relevant forces in the area to gain their (the IDF soldiers) release."
In July 2006, two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were kidnapped by Hezbollah near the Israel-Lebanon border.
That action was the spark that ignited a month-long war and saw the Israel Defense Forces bombard Beirut and invade southern Lebanon.
A subsequent ceasefire negotiated by the United Nations had the "timely" return of the captured Israelis as one of its central conditions. Over a year later, their fate remains unknown.
U.N. chief Kofi Annan assigned a "special facilitator" to expedite the return of the soldiers.
Neither Annan, nor his successor, Ban Ki Moon, has ever released the identity of the confidential facilitator, nor how much (or how little) progress has been made for the soldiers' freedom.
Last week, the wife of Ehud Goldwasser, Karnit, challenged Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a U.N. news conference to reveal what he knew about the fate of the missing soldiers.
Ahmadinejad smiled, refused to answer the questions and U.N. security officers then removed the bereaved Israeli from the conference room.
Now, Jesse Jackson says the White House may have to take some responsibility for the apparent standoff with Hezbollah.
Jackson is best known for his role in securing the release of captured US Naval pilot Lt. Robert Goodman Jr. from Syrian captivity in 1984.
Goodman was shot down over Lebanon, taken captive by Syrian soldiers, and transferred to its capital Damascus.
Despite initial reservations by the Reagan Administration, Jackson was eventually given the green light to meet Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad. Days later, Goodman was turned over to Jackson by the Syrian authorities.
Now, Jackson claims that "progress" he had been making with Hezbollah on the fate of the two Israelis was killed by the Bush administration.
"The log jam must be broken. We really need those soldiers returned," he added.
The civil rights leader also revealed that he is "closely" watching developments in Myanmar (Burma) as the military junta has engaged in a violent crackdown against dissident Buddhist monks.
"The Myanmar situation is very much on our radar screen, as well as Sudan and Colombia."
Jackson also noted that his first meeting with new U.N. chief Ban Ki Moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, took place on the same day that North and South Korean presidents met in the North's capital, Pyongyang, for only the second time in more than 50 years:
"Today, he (Ban) said with a degree of passion that the South Korean president walked across the DMZ (demilitarized zone). It was a big deal to him. It's a big deal for the whole world. I hope something will come of these talks because North Korea and South Korea remain on the brink of disaster unless we are able to pull them back and address the issues that really should unite them, ending malnutrition and bringing about health care and some (economic) development (in North Korea)."
U.N. diplomatic sources tell NewsMax that Ban himself is looking forward towards his own visit to North Korea which could come early next year.
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