U. S. Demands Seven Other Hostages Be Released Too : HOSTAGES: Embassies Won’t Hold Americans
The White House, raising the stakes in Beirut, today insisted on the immediate and unconditional release of all 46 Americans held hostage in Lebanon, including the seven kidnaped before the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
“We want them all released,” presidential spokesman Larry Speakes told reporters, echoing the demand of Secretary of State George P. Shultz that seven Americans missing or kidnaped in Beirut in the last 15 months be freed with the 39 hostages from the plane.
Two of those seven have been held for more than a year.
Meanwhile, France and Switzerland today refused a proposal that they take custody of the 39 TWA hostages, but Shia Muslim leader Nabih Berri still maintained that the Americans could be freed within 72 hours and said President Reagan was in contact with Syrian President Hafez Assad to end the standoff.
Linked Wednesday Night
Shultz for the first time Wednesday night emphatically linked the freedom of the two groups.
“We are working intensely on this matter and we insist on release of our hostages, all 46 of them, immediately and unconditionally,” he said when asked about the seven during an appearance in San Francisco.
Vice President George Bush today echoed Shultz, telling reporters in Brussels: “That’s always been the (U.S.) position. Release them all. Release them all.”
Speakes said the United States has included the fate of the kidnaped seven in its discussion of the hijack victims “every time we have raised it with anybody.”
Not in Same Package
Only Tuesday, however, Speakes had said the plight of the seven was not being addressed in the same package as the larger group.
Speakes said then that the plight of the seven was “being addressed in the same channels they were before the hijacking, and those efforts continue.” He answered “that’s right” when asked if the efforts concerning the two types of hostages were separate.
Peggy Say, the sister of one of the seven, today praised the media for raising the issue and said she had been told by the State Department two weeks ago that to attempt a package deal “would only complicate matters.” (Story on Page 2.)
White House spokesmen confirmed today that Reagan had not met with any family members of the seven previously, but that he will meet in Chicago on Friday with relatives of the Rev. Laurence Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest held since Jan. 8 of this year.
Minister, Dean Also Held
The other Americans held since before the hijacking are Terry Anderson, AP’s chief Middle East correspondent; William Buckley, a U.S. Embassy political officer; the Rev. Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian minister; Peter Kilburn, American University of Beirut librarian; David Jacobsen, director of American University hospital, and Thomas Sutherland, dean of the university’s agricultural school.
Administration officials declined to speculate publicly or privately on whether linking the group of seven to the 39 could throw a monkey wrench into the sensitive diplomatic maneuverings for release of the hijack hostages.
Shia leader Berri, who is handling negotiations from the hijackers’ side for the release of the 39 American hostages, has said that the seven are not under his control but that he is looking for them.
Captors of the seven are believed to be members of radical Islamic groups, some of whom have said they will hold the Americans until Kuwait releases 17 suspected Islamic terrorists.
Will Convey Message
A spokesman for the Shia Amal movement said today it is willing to convey “to the quarters concerned” the new U.S. demand for release of the seven.
“Everything can be subject to dialogue. We are ready to take the U.S. government request to the quarters concerned,” Amal foreign relations chief Ghassan Siblani told reporters.
Siblani’s comment followed a refusal today by France and Switzerland to accept Berri’s proposal that the hijack victims be moved to the embassy in West Beirut of one or the other until the hijackers’ demands--for the release of 735 mostly Shia Lebanese detained by Israel--are met.
“We cannot act as substitute jailers,” the French External Relations Ministry said.
No Further Conditions Needed
The Swiss government said in Bern that it had studied an offer from Berri to transfer the American hostages into its embassy in Beirut. But it said that the Swiss Embassy would accept the hostages only if “no further conditions were placed, and that Switzerland had the assurance that it could freely bring the people concerned to Switzerland or to another place and set them free.”
The French have said they are willing to help in securing the hostages’ freedom, but the Foreign Ministry in Paris issued a statement saying: “The liberation of the hostages must be unconditional. We are prepared to accept liberated people, not hostages. . . . We cannot act as substitute jailers.”
Israeli newspapers reported early today that Israel might free more prisoners soon from the Atlit prison where the 735 Lebanese are held, but journalists who waited in the area said there was no sign of unusual activity.