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Negotiator Waite Drops From Sight Amid Flurry of Reports on Release of Hostages

November 02, 1986|Associated Press

LARNACA, Cyprus — Hostage negotiator Terry Waite dropped from sight Saturday after announcing progress in efforts to free Americans kidnaped in Beirut. Lebanese television reported that six American and two French hostages already were in Syrian hands, but its report could not be independently confirmed.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. said the eight hostages were in Anjar in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, and the Syrians would release the Frenchmen before Nov. 10. It said the Syrians were considering releasing two of the Americans, but did not say which two.

The station, which speaks for the Lebanese Forces, an anti-Syrian Christian militia, has good Lebanese security sources but has been inaccurate at times in the past.

Syrian Efforts Cited

In Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Yassin Rajjouh, asked about the reports of an imminent hostage release, said only, "Everything will be announced in due course."

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati of Iran met in Damascus with President Hafez Assad of Syria. Iran is believed to have ties to the Shia Muslim group Islamic Jihad (Holy War), which says it is holding three Americans and claims to have killed one other in October, 1985. However, it was not known if Velayati's visit was connected to hostage negotiations.

Seven Americans and 13 other foreigners are missing in Lebanon, kidnaped by various underground groups.

Waite, a personal envoy of Robert A.K. Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, telephoned reporters in Beirut on Friday to say he was in the city. Later Friday, he flew to Cyprus to meet with American Embassy officials and told reporters: "Something may happen in a day or two. But I don't know for sure."

Whereabouts Unknown

His whereabouts Saturday were unknown. The U.S. and British embassies disclaimed knowledge of the Anglican envoy's activities.

Two unmarked planes, a Learjet and a Boeing 727, were parked at the runway of the international airport at Larnaca. Airport sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Learjet was chartered by the U.S. government.

The planes' presence prompted speculation one would shuttle Waite to Lebanon or that they were standing by in case the hostages were freed.

Eve Keatley, a spokeswoman for Archbishop Runcie, said in a telephone interview from London that Waite's plans were uncertain but "he expects to be on the move."

"He is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of further hostages being released," she said.

She declined to reveal details of his plans because "lives are at stake."

No Official U.S. Comment

In Washington, U.S. officials kept a tight hold on information regarding the hostages.

"There's a reluctance to have anything said that might endanger any efforts," said an Administration official, speaking on condition he not be identified.

"People here have a considerable measure of confidence in Waite. The thinking is, he seems to know what he's doing so let's wait and see what happens," the official said.

Lebanese television said French hostages Marcel Carton and Marcel Fontaine were taken to meet Justice Minister Nabih Berri in Beirut and then were brought to Anjar on Thursday. It did not say when the American hostages were brought to Anjar.

Two Christian radio stations in Beirut reported Friday that six Americans, Carton and Fontaine would be released, and that the Frenchmen had been turned over to Syrian officials in the Bekaa.

The radios stopped broadcasting the report Saturday, and a news editor at one, the Voice of Lebanon, said he was awaiting further information. In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said there was no basis for the radios' report.

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