BEIRUT — On his third Christmas Eve as a hostage, American journalist Terry A. Anderson told his family in a videotape released Thursday that he is well and pleaded with his government to do what it can to free him.
"To my family, I love you and miss you very much," he said in a strong, steady voice on the four-minute videotape, which Anderson's captors delivered to the British news agency Reuters in Muslim West Beirut. "I'm sorry we have to be apart again this Christmas.
"I'm in good health, but tired and very lonely. I think of you very much. Kiss my beautiful children for me and be patient."
Anderson, who was kidnaped by Muslim extremists in West Beirut on March 16, 1985, is the longest-held foreign captive in Lebanon. His father and a brother have died during his captivity. One of his two daughters, Sulome, now 2, was born after his abduction.
The 40-year-old journalist, who was chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, appeared to be reading from a prepared text as he pleaded for help from the U.S. government for the eight Americans held hostage in Lebanon, saying to President Reagan:
"Mr. President, I say again this cannot continue. This is my third Christmas as a hostage. Others have been (held) nearly as long.
"Surely it's enough? It has to be. Our condition is not great. There's a limit for how long we can last, and some of us are approaching their limit very rapidly."
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said: "All statements by hostages are made under the duress of their captivity. We continue to be deeply concerned for the health and the well-being of all the hostages. They are not forgotten."
Waite Still a Hostage
In addition to the eight Americans, at least 12 other foreigners are known to be hostages in Lebanon. Anglican church negotiator Terry Waite dropped from sight Jan. 20 after leaving his West Beirut hotel to meet with extremists and is now also considered a hostage.
Peggy Say, Anderson's sister, said at her home in Batavia, N.Y., that the message brightened an otherwise discouraging Christmas. "Next to his release, it's the best news we could have gotten."
In London, Robert A. K. Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made an impassioned appeal for the release of the Western hostages, especially Waite, his personal envoy, his office said Thursday.
"At this sacred season I have no hesitation in making a special appeal to the religious and political leaders in Lebanon and the other countries which, in one way or another, may have influence on the captors," Runcie said.
Meanwhile, Joelle Kauffman, wife of French hostage Jean-Paul Kauffman, who was kidnaped in May, 1985, flew from Paris to Beirut on Thursday to be near her husband. Her trip to Beirut came amid reports that two Frenchmen and a West German captive would soon be set free.
On Thursday, two Lebanese newspapers reported that the three hostages would be released within the coming days.
"Two French hostages and German captive Rudolf Cordes will regain freedom within 48 hours during the glorious Christmas," the conservative Al Anwar newspaper reported. The pro-Syrian newspaper Al Shark said the release of the three captives would take place during the next few days. The French hostages were not named in either newspaper report.
Anderson, in remarks directed to the Reagan Administration on the videotape, said that no progress has been apparent in efforts to free American captives since David P. Jacobsen of Huntington Beach, Calif., former director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, was released on Nov. 2, 1986.
He has appealed to Reagan for action in an earlier message delivered by his kidnapers, the pro-Iranian Shia Muslim extremist group Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War).
Anderson was bearded on the videotape. He wore spectacles and a light brown sweater. He said to Reagan:
"Surely by now you know what must be done and how you can do it. This is difficult, but you can do it. There has been enough careful consideration, cold discussion and enough intricate secret maneuvering and more than enough self-righteousness. . . .
"Mr. President, I'll say again, this cannot continue. There's a limit to how long we can last. Some of us are approaching that limit very rapidly. Surely by now, you know what must be done and how you can do it. I know this is a difficult and delicate matter, but you can do it."
In Washington, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said intelligence experts will examine the latest tape "for nuances" and any other information it holds about the hostages' condition.
Asked what Washington is doing to secure the captives' release, he said: "Everything we can."
Anderson said on the tape that conditions for himself and other hostages probably would improve if the those of 17 convicted pro-Iranian terrorists jailed in Kuwait get better.
"If something is done to improve their conditions, ours will too," he said, but did not describe his own situation.
Islamic Jihad has demanded freedom for the 17, who were convicted of bombing the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in December, 1983. It also holds Thomas Sutherland, an American who is acting dean of agriculture at the American University of Beirut, and at least three French hostages.
In addition to Anderson and Sutherland, the American hostages held by a variety of extremist groups in Lebanon are: Frank H. Reed, 53, director of the Lebanese International School in West Beirut; Joseph J. Cicippio, 56, acting controller of the American University of Beirut; Edward A. Tracy, 56, a salesman; Alann Steen, 48, a journalism professor at Beirut University College; Jesse Turner, 39, a mathematics instructor at Beirut University College, and Robert Pohill, 53, an assistant business professor at the same institution.