Report: Finnish expert mediating Shalit release

The Saudi daily al-Wattan reported Tuesday that a Finnish expert on negotiations for hostages is holding secret talks between Israel and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in order to solve the recent crisis surrounding kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. According to the report, Israel requested that the expert act on the matter, and that the expert was recently in Damascus in talks with Mashaal. Israel, according to the report, has offered to release senior Hamas parliamentarians in Israeli custody in exchange for Shalit. Israeli officials have not confirmed the validity of the report.