Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali today abandoned his bid to secure the release of four Americans and a Saudi diplomat kidnaped in Lebanon and flew to Europe on his way home.
Ali's assistants said the three-time heavyweight champion abandoned earlier plans to take his case to Syria and a meeting with President Hafez Assad.
"We are not going to Syria because the hostages are not there," Jabir Mohammed, Ali's religious adviser, said shortly before the 43-year-old Ali flew to Geneva.
"We are very optimistic and we hope that . . . things will be much better," Mohammed said. "I think the captors got our message. . . . We never expected them to bring them and deliver them into our hands.
"(God willing) they will deliver them somewhere soon," he said. "When they are really ready, they know where we are and they will contact us."
During his four-day stay in Beirut, Ali met with a few Shia Muslim clergymen and attended Muslim prayers. He made no contact with Lebanese government or Muslim militia leaders.
Ali, who converted to Islam in 1964, had said he hoped that his influence as an American Muslim could win freedom for the five, believed to have been kidnaped by Shia Muslim radicals loyal to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran.