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Beirut Reports See Release of Waite, Americans Near

Associated Press

A Beirut magazine said today the captors of Anglican church envoy Terry Waite will free him “very soon” and American hostages will be released before the U.S. presidential election Nov. 8.

Ash Shiraa said the two other British hostages will be freed with Waite, who has been captive since January, 1987. Al Anwar, a conservative daily newspaper based in Christian East Beirut, said Waite would be freed in 72 hours.

An Israeli newspaper, meanwhile, said the United States made a deal with Iran to free American hostages in exchange for delivery of arms and spare parts through South Korea. U.S. officials denied the report.

There are 14 foreigners missing in Lebanon, including nine Americans.

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No Word Received

The Anglican church and British government said they had no information about Waite.

Both Beirut publications have been inaccurate in recent reports about hostages. Ash Shiraa, based in Muslim West Beirut, revealed in November, 1986, that the United States was secretly delivering arms to Iran.

The report about arms in The Nation, a new English-language Israeli weekly, was not attributed. It said the U.S. government also agreed to pay $7 million in ransom to Shia Muslim extremists holding the hostages but refused their demand for immunity from prosecution.

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White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater denied the report but said there were “a lot of free-lancers, independent operators in the region.”

President Reagan refused questions about the reports as he left for a speaking engagement in Detroit. Fitzwater, traveling with him, said there was “nothing new” on any hostages.

The British Foreign Office said of the Waite story: “We have nothing that would indicate this is anything different from all the hundreds of previous reports.”

Lambeth Palace, London headquarters of the archbishop of Canterbury, said: “We have not heard anything here and in view of the sort of relationships we have established, we would be likely to hear something.”

On Way to Meeting

Waite, personal emissary of Archbishop Robert A. K. Runcie, disappeared after leaving his West Beirut hotel to meet with a group holding hostages, including American Terry Anderson.

Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of the Associated Press, was kidnaped March 16, 1985, and is the foreigner held longest.

Britain’s recent decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Iran “provided efforts currently under way to release Waite and his countrymen with a strong impetus,” Ash-Shiraa reported.

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The other British hostages are journalist Alec Collett, kidnaped March 25, 1985, and television news producer John McCarthy, seized April 17, 1986.


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