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Envoy to Seek Release of 4 U.S. Hostages : Americans’ Plea Gets Response From British Archbishop

United Press International

A special envoy from the Archbishop of Canterbury, responding to an appeal from four Americans held hostage in Lebanon, will fly to Beirut on Wednesday to try to negotiate their release, the Church of England said today.

Terry Waite, Archbishop Robert Runcie’s secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs, decided to make the trip “after having had further contact during the past three days with the group holding the hostages,” a church statement said.

“Mr. Waite has received a message from the group which encourages him to believe that a visit to Beirut will be worthwhile at this time,” the statement said.

Involved for a Year

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Waite, a skilled negotiator, has been involved in the hostage crisis for more than a year and helped secure the release in September of the Rev. Benjamin Weir, 61, a U.S. clergyman who spent 16 months in captivity in Lebanon.

Citing the “extremely sensitive and dangerous nature of the situation,” the statement appealed to news organizations to allow Waite to work outside the media spotlight.

A church spokeswoman said Waite’s trip was arranged in direct response to an appeal from four American captives but did not rule out talks concerning seven other Western hostages--two Americans, three Frenchmen, a Briton and an Italian.

Islamic Group Blamed

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Most of the captives are believed held by the Islamic Jihad organization, a radical fundamentalist group about which little is known.

The spokeswoman said Waite had made contact with the group holding four of the Americans after Runcie received a letter from the captives on Saturday.

The letter, one of several in a packet thrown from a speeding car, was signed by Terry Anderson, the Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut; Father Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest, and two American University officials--hospital administrator David Jacobsen and Dean Thomas Sutherland.

A similar letter addressed to the White House appealed to President Reagan to negotiate on the hostages’ behalf, but the Administration ruled out any talks “with terrorists.”

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