American journalist Terry Anderson, the longest-held Western hostage in Beirut, in a videotape released Sunday called on all sides to press negotiations for an overall hostage release. "This is no longer the time for bargaining," he said.
According to an Associated Press report from Damascus, Syria, the tape was obtained by Cable News Network. Ed Turner, executive vice president of CNN in Atlanta, said the network got the tape from a Lebanese production company and that it had been made Sunday.
The surprise taped appeal in the tense negotiations for an exchange of nine Western hostages for Arab prisoners held by Israel added an unusual twist to the secretive dealing. Although still reclusive, the kidnapers showed a growing command of public relations negotiating tactics.
CNN said it was allowed to pose questions to Anderson, 43, the Beirut bureau chief for the Associated Press, but did not conduct the interview and did not pay for it.
Anderson, the only hostage appearing on the tape, said his kidnapers told him they would soon have "very good news."
The captive journalist said that he and two other Westerners held with him--American educator Thomas P. Sutherland and British churchman Terry Waite--are "highly encouraged by news events" that, he said, they had followed in both Time and Newsweek magazines and over the radio, according to the report from Damascus.
"Everyone on all sides simply must cooperate," said Anderson, who was shown wearing a brown sweatshirt and appearing relaxed. "This is no longer the time for bargaining. This is no longer the time to get some small advantage out of each step."
The movement on the difficult hostage issue began in August with the releases of Briton John McCarthy and American Edward A. Tracy, the first hostages freed under a doggedly pursued initiative of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Last month, Briton Jack Mann was freed after the release by Israel of 51 Lebanese prisoners and the return of the remains of nine Hezbollah guerrillas. Since then, the Israeli government has refused to release any more prisoners until, spokesmen say, the other side provides further information about missing Israeli servicemen.
The hostage holders, identified by intelligence sources as pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiite Muslims, are apparently under increasing pressure from the Iranian government to end the hostage ordeal, which has damaged Tehran's relations with Western governments.
Both the kidnapers and the Israelis have accused each other of increasing their demands beyond the parameters of a deal arranged by Perez de Cuellar. The tone of the videotape and statement released Sunday, however, seemed conciliatory.
A P said its report was based on viewing portions of the tape and details provided by Gayle Young, a CNN producer. The Damascus dispatch quoted Young as saying: "By the content of the message, it was obvious that he was saying what his captors wanted him to say. But he did not appear to be talking under stress."
Young said CNN had posed a number of questions for the taped interview, but not all of them were put to Anderson and some were changed in content. In the accompanying statement, the kidnapers, identified as members of Islamic Jihad, said the tape was meant to show "our hostages stating their opinions, which serves practical steps to bring an end to the hostage case."
On the 12-minute tape, Anderson said that he, Waite and Sutherland play chess daily. He thanked family and friends for "keeping the issue alive and not letting it come to a halt. . . . We are grateful you haven't forgotten us."
Anderson mentioned that he had heard his daughter Sulome on a British Broadcasting Corp. report, declaring, "I was delighted." Sulome, who was born three months after her father was abducted, lives in Cyprus with her mother. He said Sutherland had heard his daughter, Kit, on radio as well.
AP reported that Anderson, who was kidnaped March 16, 1985, appeared calm and alert. It noted that he laughed three times during the videotape.