President Reagan said Thursday that his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, now on a tour of the Middle East, is not carrying a message from him to Syria in an effort to free foreigners held hostage in Lebanon.
But, he said at his news conference, he would be grateful if Carter made an effort to obtain their freedom during a visit to Damascus this weekend.
Syria last month sent troops into West Beirut, widely believed to be the headquarters of groups holding about 25 foreigners, including eight Americans.
When asked if Carter plans an effort to free them, Reagan said: "I don't know. I wouldn't be surprised if he was and I would be grateful if he did."
Carter, who was in Cairo on Thursday, stressed that he was traveling as a private citizen. He said he would report to the Administration after his return.
The United States severed all relations with Iran over an earlier hostage crisis, the holding at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during Carter's presidency of 52 Americans for 444 days. The United States imposed an arms embargo and labeled Iran a terrorist state as a result of that crisis, which began in 1979 and ended as Carter left office in 1981.
The crisis helped to ensure Carter's defeat in the 1980 presidential election at the hands of his chief critic over the affair, Reagan.