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Will Free Cicippio Soon, Kidnapers Say : Lebanon: The Revolutionary Justice Organization says the American will be released in 48 hours. He was abducted in 1986.

From Times Wire Services

Pro-Iranian Lebanese kidnapers said today that they will release American hostage Joseph J. Cicippio in 48 hours.

“The Revolutionary Justice Organization announces that it will release the American Joseph Cicippio in 48 hours,” the group said in a statement.

The Arabic-language communique was accompanied by a photograph of Cicippio, 61, of Valley Forge, Pa. He had a bushy, graying beard.

The 29-line statement said the kidnapers’ decision to free Cicippio was an outcome of “positive results” reached after negotiations through the United Nations, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

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Cicippio was acting controller at the American University of Beirut when he was kidnaped as he walked to work on Sept. 12, 1986.

On Saturday, an Iranian newspaper had reported that one or two Americans could be freed from captivity in Lebanon within days, and a radio station said that all three U.S. hostages may be out within 10 days.

The reports coincided with a new trip to the Middle East by the U.N. secretary general’s envoy to resolve the hostage ordeal.

The Paris-based Radio Monte Carlo reported from Tehran that Cicippio and another American, Alann Steen, will be freed “no later than Wednesday.”

The third American hostage, Terry A. Anderson, may be released within 10 days, it said.

Monte Carlo’s correspondent in Tehran, Mohammed Sadik Husseini, said he obtained his information from “reliable sources” in the Iranian capital.

The report linked the anticipated release of the hostages to the settlement of a financial dispute between Washington and Tehran at a Dutch-based international tribunal last week.

U.S. officials had denied any linkage between the hostages and the document, signed Tuesday in the Netherlands. It stipulated the repayment to Iran of $278 million for weapons impounded by Washington 12 years ago.

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The radio report also tied the return to the Middle East of U.N. envoy Giandomenico Picco to the success of the talks.

Picco, on a mission to end the hostage saga by Christmas, was in the area Saturday. But his precise movements are a closely guarded secret--as they have been since last summer, when the United Nations began a drive to free all the hostages.

“Picco’s back, and because of that we expect at least one hostage to be released soon,” a diplomat said. “But he has to make the kidnapers move each time. And that is the hard part.”


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