Mohammed Ali Delays Hostage Freedom Flight With PM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ American boxing great Mohammed Ali postponed a planned departure with 15 U.S. hostages today, and aides said he was negotiating to have three more released.
The aides said Ali made the move after Friday night’s surprise offer by President Bush to send Secretary of State James Baker to Baghdad for talks on the Persian Gulf crisis.
The aides gave no other details. Ali and his group had been scheduled to fly to Amman, Jordan, aboard an Iraqi Airways flight.
Ali’s manager and spokesman, Jaber Mohammed, said Friday that the 15 Americans had all been held at strategic sites in Iraq as part of the so- called ″human shield″ since August.
Ali, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, has been in Baghdad more than a week with two aides and members of the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East.
On his self-described mission to win the release of hostages and seek a peaceful solution to the crisis, Ali met earlier this week with President Saddam Hussein, whose troops invaded Kuwait Aug. 2.
On Friday, the ex-champ met with the Americans to be freed at the Mansour Melia Hotel, known in Baghdad as the ″Hostage Hotel″ because that is where the foreigners are processed as they are taken to strategic locations or brought back for release.
Jaber said Ali might return later this month to seek the release of more Americans.
Another Ali associate, Arthur Morrison, identified the 15 Americans as George Charchalis of Reno, Nev.; Ralph Leidholdt of Lakewood, Colo.; Richard Iliff of Roswell, Ga.; Harold Martin of Tulsa, Okla.; Dean Shannon of Cuero, Texas; Bobby Means of Belle Chasse, Louisiana; R.L. Smart of Liberty, Texas; Desmond Bailey of Crosby, Texas; Bobby R. Anderson of Round Rock, Texas; Harry Brill-Edwards of Fort Lee, N.J.; Sergio Coletta of Moss Point, Miss.; and Ken Beasley, Marlin Gillmore, Julio Loyala and Bill McHann, all of Texas. Their hometowns were not disclosed.
On Friday about 80 foreigners, most of them Swedes, were released and flew from Baghdad in a chartered Iraqi Airways jetliner to Stockholm.