A pro-Iranian extremist group Sunday rejected a U.N. Security Council appeal for the release of American hostage Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, insisting that he was a U.S. spy working under U.N. cover.
“We reject this resolution. We consider it part of a plot against the Muslims and moujahedeen (holy warriors) of this area,” said Abbas Mousawi, a senior leader of Hezbollah, or Party of God.
“We consider the arrest of this agent by the sons of this nation as part of its defense of its dignity and existence,” Mousawi said at a Hezbollah rally in the southeastern Lebanese town of Mashgharah.
Hezbollah is believed to be an umbrella group for Shia Muslim factions holding most of the 18 foreigners, including nine Americans, who are hostages in Lebanon.
Church Trying to Help
Also on Sunday, the Church of England said it sent an Anglican bishop to Lebanon to seek information from Christian leaders about four Iranians who were kidnaped in Lebanon six years ago by Christian militiamen. Some reports say the Iranians were killed, and Iran has been making inquiries about them.
By working on behalf of the missing Iranians, the Church of England is apparently hoping to win the release of the foreign hostages, who include the church’s envoy, Terry Waite.
Mousawi’s speech was the first Hezbollah reply to Friday’s Security Council resolution, in which the 15-nation body unanimously condemned the U.S. Marine’s abduction and pleaded for his immediate release.
Higgins, 43, of Danville, Ky., was chief of a 76-member truce observer group attached to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon when he was abducted Feb. 17. The Vietnam veteran also served as an aide to former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.
Hezbollah has publicly defended the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, the group that claimed responsibility for Higgins’ abduction.
“Everyone knows that when Higgins was seized by the ‘oppressed’ in south Lebanon, he wasn’t on a humanitarian mission, but, according to even the American press and President Reagan, he was engaged in a spying mission on Hezbollah in south Lebanon,” Mousawi said.
There is no record of Reagan making such a statement.
“So it is within our right to say that the presence of Higgins under the Security Council umbrella in south Lebanon is part of a war waged by this arrogant body and America, the Great Satan, against our oppressed people,” he said.
His oration drew thunderous chants of “Death to the Great Satan!” and “No to the Security Council!” from thousands of fist-shaking Shia Muslim zealots attending the rally.
The Rt. Rev. John Brown, bishop for Cyprus and the Persian Gulf, went to Lebanon on Wednesday to speak to Christian leaders at the request of Robert A. K. Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Church spokesman John Lyttle, who told reporters in London about Brown’s mission, said the envoy, who returned to Cyprus on Sunday, plans to fly to Britain today to report to Runcie.
Brown, in a British Broadcasting Corp. TV interview from Cyprus, said of the Christian leaders in Lebanon: “They have promised to cooperate, so I am hoping inquiries will be made now in the circles that they move in in Lebanon--many of those circles are unknown to us--and try to find out something of the whereabouts or the fate of those four (Iranian) men.”