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Families of Hostages Meet in Illinois

March 29, 1985

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) _ The wife of a Presbyterian minister kidnapped in Beirut almost a year ago said Friday that her husband’s captors were ″seeking dialogue with the United States″ and urged the government to ″open the lines of communications.″

Earlier Friday, Carol Weir, 60, met with the families of two other hostages in this community about 40 miles south of Chicago.

Mae Mihelich, the sister of the Rev. Lawrence Jenco of Joliet, invited Mrs. Weir and her son, John, 27, to discuss what the families could do to publicize the status of hostages held in Lebanon.

Also attending the gathering were Peggy Say and Judy Blouin, sisters of Terry Anderson, Beirut bureau chief for The Associated Press. Both are from Batavia, N.Y.

The Rev. Benjamin Weir, 61, was kidnapped May 8. Jenco, 50, head of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut, was taken at gunpoint Jan. 8, and Anderson, 37, was kidnapped March 16.

″They have the same problems we do,″ Mrs. Mihelich said.

At a Chicago news conference, Mrs. Weir appealed to the U.S. government to ″open the lines of communications in all directions.″

She said her husband’s captors had ″suffered greatly. And I believe that they are seeking dialogue with the United States.

″I believe they (the captors) have been driven to this desperation measure. Their lives and livelihoods have been threatened by the presence in southern Lebanon of Israeli occupational forces, which are supported militarily and politically by the U.S.″

The Weirs first went to Lebanon as Presbyterian mission workers in 1953. They moved to Beirut in 1961.

Ms. Say said she felt guilty that she had not been politically active or taken action when earlier kidnappings occurred.

″We’re voters, and we’re supposed to have control,″ she said.

Mrs. Weir said the families planned to publicize the situation and pressure the government to negotiate with the Islamic Holy War, a group of extremist Shiite Moslems claiming responsibility for the kidnappings.

The only communication Mrs. Weir has gotten from her husband was a letter to Presbyterian church officials dated Feb. 15, she said. In that letter, he urged the church to encourage the U.S. government to work for the release of Islamic prisoners being held in Kuwait.

Mrs. Mihelich received a similar letter recently from Jenco.

Other Americans being held captive in Lebanon are William Buckley, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy, and American University librarian Peter Kilburn.

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