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Talks Fail to Free U.S. Hostages in Lebanon for Christmas

December 25, 1985|United Press International

LONDON — Church of England envoy Terry Waite returned from Beirut on Tuesday after failing to win the Christmas release of four American hostages, despite a face-to-face meeting with their Muslim captors.

He urged the hostages' families to be "courageous" and vowed to pursue his mission.

The bearded trouble-shooter for the Archbishop of Canterbury had hoped to win a Christmas gesture from the Islamic extremist kidnapers, believed to be members of the pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad terror group, and he openly admitted disappointment on that count.

"Naturally, one would have hoped for more movement at this stage," Waite said. "We have this setback, but by no means are we put back."

Waite said he had received assurances the hostages were well. He said he had a Christmas message of hope for the hostages' families to "keep courageous, and all of us who are involved in this matter will be persistent, and we will see it through."

The wife of a French journalist among four French citizens also believed held by Islamic Jihad flew from Paris with family members to spend Christmas in Beirut. Joelle Kauffmann, wife of Jean-Paul Kauffmann, said: "I do not hope to meet my husband. But it will be a way to feel closer to him."

Meanwhile, a militant Muslim group Tuesday reportedly claimed to have killed one of four hostage Lebanese Jews in retaliation for the shelling of Shia Muslim villages in southern Lebanon by Israeli-backed militiamen.

A statement purporting to be from the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth identified the victim as Chaim Cohen Halala, 39. He was abducted by six gunmen from his home in West Beirut's Jewish quarter March 29.

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