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Video of Marine Hostage Lists Demands of Captors

February 23, 1988|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The abductors of a U.S. Marine Corps officer released a videotape Monday in which the officer is depicted criticizing his government's policy in the Middle East and listing his captors' demands for his release.

In the videotape, delivered to a Western news agency in Beirut, the Marine, Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, appears to be unharmed.

Higgins, who was seized last Wednesday on the coastal highway near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, appears to be reading a prepared statement. In the past, other American hostages have said they were forced to make similar recordings by gunmen standing off-camera.

'Crimes Against Oppressed'

The statement said that President Reagan "has to take responsibilities for the crimes he has committed against the oppressed people in the region."

In Washington, the Reagan Administration quickly reiterated its opposition to negotiating for hostages.

"We are not going to give in to the demands of terrorists, and we will continue to explore all avenues," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

Higgins, unshaven and wearing a dark green sweater, read the demands in a clear, strong voice.

Among the demands his captors have set for his release, Higgins' statement said, are the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and the release from detention of Lebanese and Palestinians held by the Israelis.

End U.S. 'Intervention'

They also demand a halt, he said, to U.S. "intervention" in Lebanon and an end to visits by "delegations to the Middle East area in order to surround the gains of the Islamic revolution in occupied Palestine." This appeared to be a reference to the upcoming visit by Secretary of State George P. Shultz to the region. Shultz will be based in Jerusalem and is expected to make day trips to Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia this week in a bid to revive the Middle East peace process after two months of Palestinian unrest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip.

Higgins, commander of the U.N. Truce Supervisory Organization in Lebanon, a 75-member group of military observers created in 1948 to patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border, was abducted while driving a U.N vehicle.

A group calling itself the Organization of the Oppressed of the Earth took responsibility for his seizure. The group is believed to be composed mainly of Shia Muslims with close ties to the revolutionary government in Iran.

Militias Clash

After the abduction, Amal--Lebanon's mainstream Shia Muslim militia--began a massive search for Higgins in southern Lebanon. The search apparently led to a number of clashes with Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Party of God, as Amal searched known Hezbollah hideouts.

A U.N. spokesman in Lebanon said Monday that 20 members of the truce supervisory force have been withdrawn from their observation posts on the border and moved to Naqoura, a small town north of the border, which serves as headquarters of the 5,800-member U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

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