BONN — The West German government today acknowledged for the first time that the kidnaping of a German in Beirut was linked to the arrest of an Arab hijack suspect, and the foreign minister reportedly contacted Iran and Syria about freeing the hostage.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher interrupted campaign appearances for Sunday's national election to concentrate on the kidnaping of Rudolf Cordes, Middle East manager for the Hoechst chemical company, in Beirut on Saturday.
The government dropped its claim that there was no connection between Cordes' abduction and the arrest at Frankfurt Airport last week of Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Lebanese-born Palestinian.
Genscher contacted a number of Middle Eastern nations, the spokesman said. They included Iran and Syria, a government source said.
In Washington, officials said the United States formally asked West Germany today to extradite Hamadi to face trial for the hijacking of a TWA airliner and the murder of one of its 153 passengers, a U.S. sailor.
But the Palestine Liberation Organization representative in Bonn, Abdullah Frangi, advocated trading the German businessman for Hamadi. Others have recommended using him as a bargaining chip.
"If Hamadi is extradited to the United States there will be an escalation," Frangi told the Bild newspaper. "Sending him to the U.S.A. will be a death sentence for the businessman."
He said it is possible that Hamadi is the brother of one of the leaders of Hezbollah, or Party of God, a pro-Iranian Lebanese group believed to have kidnaped Cordes.
Until today, the Bonn government discouraged speculation of a link between the arrest of the Arab and the kidnaping.
Government spokesman Friedhelm Ost issued a statement today saying: "The federal government in the meantime has learned there is a connection between the kidnaping of Cordes in Beirut and the arrest of Mohammed Ali Hamadi. The federal government will provide no more information on this, above all in the interest of Cordes."
Warning on Extradition
Ost thanked Hans-Juergen Wischnewski, a prominent Social Democrat with good contacts in the Middle East, for his offer to be of assistance.
Wischnewski on Monday cautioned the government against abandoning any bargaining chips by turning the suspected hijacker over to the United States.
"I would not leave the decision over a West German citizen to the United States," said Wischnewski, who has served as the government's mediator in numerous hostage situations involving Germans.
The Die Welt newspaper said in an editorial today that the U.S. extradition demand puts West German justice officials in a dilemma if Cordes is being held hostage to extort the release of Hamadi.