WASHINGTON — Britain received U.S. assurances that Washington stood firmly by its policy of not making deals for hostages on the same day that a U.S. negotiator traveled to Iran for talks that were expected to lead to freedom for American hostages in Lebanon, informed sources said.
National security adviser John M. Poindexter assured a British diplomat May 28 that the United States had not changed its policy of not dealing with terrorists, the sources said. That same day, Poindexter's predecessor, Robert C. McFarlane, landed in Tehran in a plane loaded with U.S. arms, expecting that all U.S. hostages in Lebanon were about to be released.
The British were particularly concerned that Washington adhere to its professed policy of refusing to make any concessions to hostage-takers, the sources said. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher not only had refused to bargain for release of two Britons held by pro-Libyan forces in Lebanon, but she had ignored the danger to the hostages and, in a show of solidarity with President Reagan, allowed U.S. warplanes based in Britain to be used in the April 15 bombing of Libya. In retaliation for that raid, the two Britons and an American were executed by their captors.
Poindexter, according to these sources, did not give any hint that McFarlane had carried U.S. arms to Tehran but said the Administration was looking at a variety of means to get the hostages out.