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Hopes Fading for Freeing 2 Germans Still Being Held in Lebanon, U.N. Says

December 25, 1991| Reuters

DAMASCUS, Syria — The United Nations said Tuesday that it is close to abandoning hope of getting the last two Western hostages in Lebanon freed by the end of the year.

U.N. sources said that envoy Giandomenico Picco left Damascus for New York on Tuesday without making any breakthrough in efforts to free Germans Heinrich Struebig and Thomas Kemptner.

They said the United Nations will continue to work for their release, although it is not clear at this stage when Picco will return to the region.

"He is continuing his efforts but it is more than likely that he might not come before next year," one U.N. official said.

"He was hoping to have a Christmas present for the families of the German hostages, but it looks like things need some more time."

The Shiite Muslim family believed to hold the two Germans denied Tuesday that it is holding them and warned against trusting promises from Bonn designed to win their release.

"We warn the kidnaping side which is holding the Germans to be careful of facilitations and promises made by the German authorities," a statement from the Hamadi family said.

Diplomats in Beirut said Picco may have passed on to the family assurances from Bonn that Abbas Ali and Mohammed Ali Hamadi, two brothers who have been convicted of air piracy, kidnaping and murder and are in jail in Germany, will be freed at a later date after the Germans are freed.

"We call on the German authorities to release our beloved sons, Mohammed and Abbas, immediately," the Hamadi family said. "We again stress that we have absolutely no relation with the party which kidnaped the two Germans."

Picco's latest efforts led to the return of the body of Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, who died while he was held captive. Diplomats in Beirut said the remains of William Buckley, the former CIA Beirut station chief who was murdered, are expected to be returned soon.

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