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Briefing by National Security Adviser : Beirut Hostages' Kin Optimistic After Meeting

January 22, 1986|RAY PEREZ | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The relatives of four Americans being held hostage in Beirut left meetings Tuesday with Reagan Administration and Syrian officials with renewed optimism that negotiations will continue for the captives' release.

The families met for one hour in the White House with John M. Poindexter, President Reagan's new national security adviser.

"I was impressed with him. He has a good grasp of the situation, and I was relieved to know that," said Eric Jacobsen of Huntington Beach, son of hostage David P. Jacobsen, the former administrator at American University Hospital in Beirut.

The families of the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, a Jesuit priest; Thomas Sutherland, dean of agriculture at American University, and Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for Associated Press, also attended the meeting with Poindexter. Two other American hostages in Beirut are William Buckley, an official of the U.S. Embassy, and Peter Kilburn, librarian at the American University in Beirut.

Official Called Helpful

Jenco's brother, Joe Jenco of Joliet, Ill., said Poindexter had been more helpful than his predecessor, Robert McFarlane.

"He gave us more information. He's not one to pull any punches. And he told us some things in confidence. McFarlane never did that," Jenco said. "He (Poindexter) really built up our hopes."

Anderson's cousin, Tom Anderson, presented Poindexter with a 900-foot yellow ribbon signed by 7,200 people urging Reagan to work for the hostages' release.

The Moslem kidnapers in Beirut have offered to release the American hostages in exchange for 17 Moslems jailed in Kuwait for bombings of the U.S. and French embassies in December, 1983.

Tom Anderson, a cousin of the captive journalist, asked Kuwaiti Embassy officials to meet with him to try to speed release of the hostage, whose father is dying of cancer.

"I am asking this as a humanitarian gesture so Terry can see his father," Anderson told an unidentified official at the embassy. The request for a meeting was denied.

Later, the group met for 1 1/2 hours with Bushna Kanafani, the Syrian Embassy's political officer.

"It was a very frank discussion. But we do have assurances that they, the Syrian government, will do everything possible to have all the hostages released," said Andy Mihelich, a nephew of Jenco.

Stopped at Algerian Embassy

The families ended their exhausting day of meetings by paying a courtesy call at the Algerian Embassy.

Jacobsen, who was making his fourth trip to the nation's capital since his father was kidnaped last May 26, said that the families during this two-day trip found more willing listeners and more sympathy for the plight of the hostages.

"We have to maintain a sense of urgency. We want them (government officials) to know that we want them to work more diligently than ever to have the hostages released," he said.

Sue Franceschini echoed Jacobsen's sentiments.

"They are finally talking to us and they are finally listening to us," she said. "They realize that we are the link. We're going to maintain our awareness and we're definitely coming back."

The families have pledged to meet in Washington and confront government officials once a month until the hostages are released by the Islamic Jihad, the Moslem group claiming responsibility for their kidnapings.

The families also gained another ally Tuesday. Joan Sutherland, 21, who recently moved from Colorado to Redondo Beach, made her first trip to Washington on behalf of her father. The airline reservation agent said she had been reluctant to speak out during the first few months after her father was kidnaped last June 9.

"I just thought it was time for me to start fighting for my father and for the others," she said.

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