PARIS — Four members of a French television crew held hostage in Lebanon since early March have sent letters and photographs indicating for the first time that they are well, their TV station announced today.
Color snapshots show the four men, unshaven, reading a May 14 edition of the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient Le Jour, said Paul Nahon, deputy director of the Antenne 2 editorial department. The station said the letters were being given to the men's families and would not reveal their contents.
The first reported communication from the French captives also was believed to be the first from any of the foreigners held in Lebanon since four Americans sent letters to the public and their families in November.
Nahon said Premier Jacques Chirac's office turned the letters and photos over to the station. He did not elaborate.
Delivered Thursday Night
Officials in Chirac's office said the material was given to the television station Thursday night but refused comment on how it was obtained.
Sources said the letters were short notes assuring that the four were in good health and only one bore a date, May 14.
Gunmen seized the four March 8 in Muslim West Beirut as they returned from covering a meeting of the Hezbollah, or Party of God, an extremist Shia Muslim group allied with Iran.
France has been striving recently to improve relations with Iran. Relations had deteriorated since the French began selling sophisticated military equipment to Iraq, which has been at war with Iran since September, 1980.
Deputy Premier Ali Reza Moayeri, the highest-ranking Iranian to visit Paris since the fundamentalist Shia government took over in 1979, said here Thursday that talks with French officials had been "positive on the whole."
French authorities also said Chirac had a telephone conversation with President Hafez Assad of Syria. The Hezbollah is based in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which Syrian troops control.
The Antenne 2 television crew went to Lebanon after Islamic Holy War, a Shia group believed to be allied with the Hezbollah, claimed it had killed captive French researcher Michel Seurat, 37. His body never was found.
Members of the television crew are Philippe Rochot, Georges Hansen, Aurel Cornea and Jean-Louis Normandin. Twenty-one foreigners are missing in Lebanon, including nine Frenchmen and five Americans.