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Libya frees Israeli photographer in Gaza aid deal.

JERUSALEM: Libya has freed an Israeli photographer held by its security services for five months, as part of a secret Austrian-mediated deal involving aid for the blockaded Gaza Strip, an Israeli official said on Monday.

Israel Radio said Rafael Hadad was detained as a suspected spy in March after traveling to Libya, which is technically at war with Israel, on a Tunisian passport -- his second travel document. But the Israeli official denied any espionage link.

Hadad, 34, flew to Vienna on Sunday night and was met by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had negotiated his release through Martin Schlaff, an Austrian businessman known to the Libyan leadership, the official, speaking on the condition that he was not further identified, told Reuters.

The talks coincided with the sailing last month of a Libyan-chartered ship carrying cargo for Palestinians in Gaza, which is under an Israeli blockade whose efficacy has been the subject of fierce international debate since the navy s bloody May 31 interception of a Turkish-led aid flotilla.

Libya had asked Israel to allow the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea to reach Gaza in exchange for Hadad, the official said.

In a compromise, the Amalthea docked instead in the nearby Egyptian port of El Arish, and Israel agreed that some 20 prefabricated structures in its cargo be admitted to Gaza.

A Schlaff spokesman in Vienna declined comment. Libyan officials in Tripoli were not immediately available for comment.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:6LIBY
Date:Aug 11, 2010
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