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2 Lebanon Radio Stations Say Negotiator Waite Has Been Freed; He Fails to Surface

Associated Press

Two Lebanese radio stations said Saturday that Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite had been freed, 18 days after he dropped from sight in Beirut to negotiate with Muslim extremists holding two American hostages, but police and militia spokesmen said Waite had not been seen anywhere in Beirut.

The Muslim-controlled Voice of the Nation said an anonymous caller told the station at about 11 p.m., “Terry Waite has been set free somewhere in a southern suburb of Beirut under the supervision of nationalist forces.”

Asked to elaborate, he replied: “I have plenty of calls to make to security authorities. I have no time to answer questions.” He then hung up, the radio reported.

A spokesman for the Druze Progressive Socialist Party that guarded Waite after he arrived in Beirut on Jan. 12 said, “We have no such information.”

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A spokesman at the Hotel Riviera in Muslim West Beirut where Waite had stayed, said the negotiator had not returned.

The Christian-run Voice of Lebanon said it had received “information from West Beirut that Waite has been freed near the Beaurivage Hotel.”

But the Beaurivage said none of its staff members had seen Waite anywhere near the hotel, which is close to the headquarters of Syrian military observers in charge of security in West Beirut.

In London, Eve Keatley, spokeswoman for Archbishop of Canterbury Robert A. K. Runcie, said the church could not confirm the radio reports and had no official comment.

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