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Jacobsen Tearfully Embraces His 3 Children and Says, 'Thank God'

November 05, 1986|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

WIESBADEN, West Germany — Former hostage David P. Jacobsen was reunited with members of his California family Tuesday for the first time since he was kidnaped 17 months ago in Beirut, and the Anglican Church envoy who helped engineer his release said two more Americans might be freed soon.

Jacobsen tearfully embraced his three children on a balcony adorned with fluttering American flags at the U.S. Air Force Medical Center in Wiesbaden.

"I waited a long time for this day . . . a day of joy with my kids. . . . I want to thank God," the bearded Jacobsen said in a quavering voice as loudspeakers blared a poignant song composed by his sons. The former administrator of the hospital at the American University of Beirut, Jacobsen was released Sunday by his Shia Muslim captors in Beirut and flown to West Germany on Monday.

He met his two sons, Eric and Paul, and a daughter, Diane Duggan, along with their spouses at the medical center here, held a private reunion and then talked with reporters.

Son Tosses Bracelet

Eric Jacobsen triumphantly pulled off the bracelet he wore during his father's months in captivity and tossed it down to the reporters. It was inscribed with his father's name and the date of his abduction: May 28, 1985.

The senior Jacobsen appeared to be in good physical condition, although he tended to ramble, and admitted that he was "on a high."

"I hope to God," he said, that the other hostages will soon be "standing here where I am today. By God, I'll be down there standing with you and loving it."

Terry Waite, emissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury, told a news conference here that prospects are "reasonably strong" that the two U.S. hostages still held in Lebanon by Islamic Jihad, the pro-Iranian terrorist group that kidnaped Jacobsen, would be released soon.

Waite said he hoped to hear within 24 hours from contacts in Lebanon whether it would be "worthwhile" for him to return there, presumably for talks leading to the release of the two men.

Waite, saying that the hostage situation was "very sensitive," declined to discuss details of Jacobsen's release or of the negotiations over remaining hostages. But he was unusually open in expressing cautious optimism about the two U.S. hostages still held by Islamic Jihad.

"At the moment, the two people specifically in my sights are Terry Anderson and Tom Sutherland," Waite said. "Insofar as I have--and have had for quite a long time--contacts with captors of the two men, that is where our best chances lie at the moment."

Kidnaped in 1985

Anderson, 39, is chief Middle East correspondent of the Associated Press, while Sutherland, 55, is the American University of Beirut's acting dean of agriculture. Both were kidnaped in 1985.

Regarding the other three Americans in Lebanon, who are held by groups other than Islamic Jihad, Waite said there was "a slight glimmer of hope for some new leads, but it's slight, very slight at the moment." Thirteen other foreigners are also missing in Lebanon.

When asked about U.S. diplomat William Buckley--whom kidnapers claim to have killed, although no body has never been found--Waite said, "I don't have proof positive, of course, but I must say on what evidence I have that he is dead."

Waite declined to comment when asked about a statement Tuesday by the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament that Iran would use its influence in Lebanon to win the American hostages' release if certain conditions were met. But the mediator said that some recent "claims" have to be taken "with a pinch of salt," and he added:

"Some people who are distant from the situation, who are away from the situation--they're the people at the moment who seem to be doing the most speaking, and those who are closest to it are not saying so much."

Waite indicated that he had expected other hostages to be released with Jacobsen.

"To be honest, I expected better than what we got," he said.

"I have a number of contacts in and around that area (Lebanon), and the same contacts prompted me to be out in the region last week (on what) proved to be a worthwhile visit. I'm waiting for those contacts to come back to me to indicate whether or not it's going to be worthwhile to return," Waite said.

Waite helped to arrange the earlier releases of two other American hostages, Father Lawrence Martin Jenco and the Rev. Benjamin Weir.

'Don't Lose Heart'

Asked if he had any message for the families of the Americans still held in Lebanon, Waite answered, "Don't lose heart."

Before the emotional balcony scene, the Jacobsen family held a private reunion inside the hospital and feasted on steak and lobster with cake baked by an Air Force wife.

Jacobsen was expected to return with his children to Huntington Beach, Calif., when the hospital completes a series of medical and psychological tests. Doctors say he appears to be in surprisingly good shape.

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