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Jihad Claims U.S. Blocked Hostage Talks

September 02, 1986|Associated Press

BEIRUT — Islamic Jihad claimed today that the Reagan Administration blocked an agreement with France that could have freed the French hostages in Lebanon.

The terrorist group, which is believed linked to Iran, also renewed its demand that two Shia Muslim Iraqi activists deported from France in February be returned to Paris as a condition of freeing the French captives.

The demand was made in a typewritten Arabic statement delivered to the West Beirut office of a Western television network along with a videotape of kidnaped French journalist Jean-Paul Kauffmann.

The statement said the election of French Premier Jacques Chirac brought "signs of a solution for the hostages question."

However, the statement said, the Reagan Administration secretly sent an emissary to Paris "carrying orders for a total coordination with the great Satan on the hostages problem." Islamic Jihad, like Iran, often refers to the United States as "the great Satan."

'Door . . . Slammed Shut'

The statement claimed that France had been instructed not to respond to Islamic Jihad's overtures and "consequently the door was slammed shut for any solution to this issue."

Kauffmann, 43, was kidnaped May 22, 1985, on the Beirut airport highway along with French research analyst Michel Seurat.

Islamic Jihad said last March that it had killed Seurat, 38, in retaliation for the expulsion from France of Iraqi opposition activists Fawzi Hamzeh and Hassan Kheireddine to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. No body was found.

Today's statement said Hamzeh and Kheireddine are in prison in Baghdad, adding that the French government "should be reminded that its credibility is at stake."

The two men officially were reported pardoned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The French government said in March that its ambassador to Iraq had visited the two men in Baghdad and made sure of their well-being.

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