BEIRUT — The father of a French hostage under death threat came to Beirut on Saturday and pleaded on television for his son's life.
Marc Normandin, his voice constricted with emotion, begged kidnapers to spare his son, Jean-Louis, a 34-year-old lighting engineer with France's Antenne-2 television station.
"I came to plead for Jean-Louis' life. I appeal to the holders of Jean-Louis Normandin, my son, to spare him and release him like the others, his friends and comrades," he said on state-run Channel 5 television hours after arriving in Christian East Beirut from France.
"He was just doing his job as a television technician. He is a victim of his duty. I hope his captors will understand that," said the 58-year-old father.
Spoke in French
He spoke for 30 seconds in French. His words were translated into Arabic by a broadcaster.
Normandin's father was expected to cross the three-mile-long "Green Line" battle zone to the Muslim half of the capital later Saturday to start a series of meetings with Muslim leaders and clergymen, a French Embassy source said.
Normandin was kidnaped March 8, 1986.
In Muslim West Beirut, police said Saturday that two bombs went off overnight. In the southern port city of Sidon, militiamen seized a truckload of explosives believed destined for terrorist attacks.
The Revolutionary Justice Organization, a group believed made up of pro-Iranian Shia extremists, has threatened to kill Normandin by Tuesday unless France spells out its policies on terrorism and supplying arms to Iraq.
Iran and Iraq have been at war since September, 1980.
French Embassy spokesman Gerard Boivineau said the father's trip was a "personal and strictly individual initiative."
Several Beirut radio stations said the elder Normandin plans to meet by Monday with Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the reputed spiritual guide of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah (Party of God).
Twenty-four foreigners, including eight Americans, are missing and believed held hostage in Lebanon.
Two French hostages--diplomats Marcel Fontaine, 44, and Marcel Carton, 63--begin their third year in captivity today.
Meanwhile, envoys of Lebanon's Christian president, Amin Gemayel, ended a ninth round of talks with Syrian leaders in Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Saturday on a blueprint to end Lebanon's 12-year-old civil war.
Sources close to the talks reported "good and substantial progress" and said the big stumbling block remaining is how much power a president should wield.