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Cleric Predicts Hostage Release

Associated Press

Kidnapers will soon free a Western hostage, probably a Briton, a Shiite Muslim cleric said Saturday.

Speculation about which hostage would be freed focused on Jack Mann, a 77-year-old former Royal Air Force pilot missing for two years.

The development came a day after U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar--who has led this summer’s accelerating hostage diplomacy--finished three days of talks with Iranian leaders.

Perez de Cuellar has been seeking to arrange a swap of Arab prisoners and missing Israeli servicemen as part of a deal involving the Western hostages.

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In southern Lebanon, Shiite Muslim cleric Sheik Ahmed Taleb said he had “information that a Western hostage, probably a Briton, will be released within hours, a day, or more.”

Taleb said that “the last initiative by those responsible for the Western hostages” would be to obtain the release of Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid from Israel.

Taleb succeeded Obeid as imam, or spiritual leader, after Obeid was captured by Israel in 1989 to be used as a bargaining chip in hostage negotiations.


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