Berri, French ambassador discuss kidnap victims With AM-Lebanon Hostages, a0761
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Moslems conferred Thursday with the French ambassador to Beirut on the fate of four Frenchmen who were among 14 foreigners kidnapped in the capital during the past year.
Sources at the home of Shiite leader Nabih Berri confirmed the meeting with Ambassador Christian Graeff, but would not provide details of the talks.
The kidnap victims include seven Americans, a Briton, an Iranian and a Kuwaiti diplomat.
Among the missing Americans are William Buckley, 56, an embassy political officer; the Rev. Benjamin Weir, 60, a Presbyterian minister; the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, 50, a Roman Catholic priest; and Terry Anderson, 37, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press.
Also kidnapped were two American University of Beirut faculty menbers, librarian Peter Kilburn, 60, and agriculture dean Thomas Sutherland, 53, and the American University Hospital director, David Jacobsen, 54.
Families of the seven American kidnap victims are planning to meet in Washington next week to talk to members of Congress and press for increased efforts to get them freed.
Defense Minister Adel Osseiran announced Thursday that soldiers and police would soon implement new measures to tighten security at the university, its adjacent hospital and the immediate area. He did not elaborate except to say the security personnel would prevent gunmen from entering the seaside campus and the hospital.
University spokesman Radwan Mawlawi said only nine of the original 40 American faculty and staff remain in Lebanon, and all live on campus. A university source said most of the nine are women.
The only woman kidnapped was Danielle Perez, secretary of the French Embassy’s cultural section. She and her Father, Marcel Carton, the embassy’s protocol officer, were seized March 2. She was released four days later but her father remains in captivity.
Also seized were Frenchmen Marcel Fontaine, the embassy’s vice consul; Jean-Paul Kauffmann, a journalist for the magazine L’Evenement Du Jeudi; and Michel Seurat, a researcher for the French Center for Studies and Reasearch of the Contemporary Middle East.
The release of Kauffmann and Seurat, kidnapped together May 22 at Beirut Airport, has been expected since the 39 American TWA hijack hostages were freed June 31 in Beirut.
Berri said then that the kidnappers of Seurat and Kauffmann told him they would release the two after Israel freed 766 Lebanese held in Israel as demanded by the Shiites who hijacked the airplane.
Israel has freed 431 Lebanese in three batches. It said it will release the rest, but gave no date.
The shadowy Jihad Islami, which is believed composed of Shiite Moslem fundamentalists, has said it is holding the Americans and Frenchmen. It said it wants the release of 17 convicted in Kuwait on bombing charges.
No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction of Alfred Yagoubzadeh, 26, an Iranian photographer working for the French agency, Sipa, or Wajed Ahmed Doumani, 56, the Kuwait Embassy press attache.
A previously unknown group, the Revolutionary Organization of the Socialist Moslems, claimed responsibility for the March 25 kidnapping of Alec Collett, 63, a British journalist working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Seventy people held a prayer vigil for Collett Thursday in a park near United Nations headquarters in New York, where his American wife and son live.