DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian foreign minister Wednesday denied that CIA Director William J. Casey had visited Damascus to seek the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon.
"We are utterly astonished that such completely unfounded reports are published," Foreign Minister Farouk Shareh said in a statement.
"Whatever the purpose of launching such false news is, the Syrian government categorically denies that Mr. Casey has visited Damascus at any time at all," Shareh said.
The Syrian denial came after intelligence sources and government officials in Washington confirmed a report that Casey had visited Syria three weeks ago.
One U.S. official told the Associated Press in Washington: "Casey did go (to Syria), but it didn't do any good, because the Syrians didn't help us."
Other U.S. officials denied any link between a Casey visit and the release Saturday of Father Lawrence M. Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest, kidnaped by Shia Muslim extremists in Lebanon 19 months ago.