Release of Western Hostages in Lebanon Seen Within Weeks

<i> Reuters</i>

The 11 Western hostages in Lebanon will be free within the next few weeks, sources close to the Iranian government said Sunday.

One Lebanese source said that the hostages, believed held by pro-Iranian groups, have “lost their bargaining value” because of the profound political shift in the region caused by Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

“The Iranians are in a race against time. They will lose if the issue drags on . . . so the release process that has already started will pick up pace in the coming few weeks,” one source said.


There are six Americans, two Britons, two West Germans and an Italian held in Lebanon.

Irishman Brian Keenan was freed in August after more than four years as a captive. Four others have been released in the past five months.

Iran has condemned the invasion by Iraq, against which it fought an eight-year war, and is backing U.N. sanctions against Baghdad.

“Iran has an historic chance to reorganize its relations with the West,” he said. “To normalize these relations (it is) essential . . . to close the hostage file as soon as possible.”