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Syrians Threaten to Retaliate if Any Hostages Are Slain

March 20, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Syrian soldiers deployed in Muslim West Beirut have threatened severe retaliation if kidnapers kill any of the 25 foreigners held hostage in Lebanon, police said Thursday.

"The Syrians have sent messages through Shia clergymen that they will not sit idly by if a foreign hostage is killed," a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They threatened the severest possible punishment."

He said one result of the Syrian threat was Tuesday's announcement by the Revolutionary Justice Organization that it had delayed for a week a death sentence for French hostage Jean-Louis Normandin.

Syria sent more than 7,000 troops into West Beirut on Feb. 22 to stop a bloody factional war and end three years of lawlessness by rival Muslim militias.

Meanwhile, Iran on Thursday denied a report by the Soviet weekly Literary Gazette that British church envoy Terry Waite was being held at the Iranian embassy in West Beirut and said it welcomes Anglican Church moves to help trace four missing Iranian envoys.

The British Foreign Office in London also said it has "no evidence" to back up the report.

Waite vanished in West Beirut on Jan. 20 while on a mission to seek the release of foreigners.

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