BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Family members of two young Swiss relief workers visited Beirut on Monday and urged the kidnappers to set their loved ones free.
Elio Erriquez and Emmanuel Christen were orthopedic technicians at an International Red Cross clinic in Sidon, 25 miles south of Beirut, when they were kidnapped Oct. 6.
″I appeal to you to unlock the door and allow them to come freely from Sidon to Beirut,″ Marianne Christen said. ″I would like to tell my son how much we miss him and are looking forward to seeing him back among us.″
Erriquez’s mother, Graziella, said: ″I appeal to their captors to release them immediately because their seizure is harming thousands of people in need of their assistance.″
The Sidon orthopedic center was closed after the abductions.
Mrs. Christen said the families visited Beirut ″to see the place Elio and Emmanuel loved and lived in for the last two years and to meet the people who are doing their best to ensure their safe release.″
Marie Erriquez, Elio’s twin, said: ″If Elio and Emmanuel can hear us, I want them to be courageous because they have lots of friends here and in Switzerland who have shown their support against this injustice.″
Accompanying the families were Christophe Marnish and Angelo Gnaedeinger of the International Red Cross in Geneva.
During a news conference at the seaside Summerland Hotel in Moslem west Beirut, the group displayed a petition for the men’s release that bore 70,000 signatures collected by Swiss newspapers and a support committee for the hostages.
Michel Dufour, head of the all-Swiss International Red Cross office in Lebanon, said it had received more than 50,000 letters of sympathy.
Dufour said the families would take the letters home to ″show Lebanese concern and consciousness toward our colleagues.″
No group has claimed responsibility for kidnapping Christen, 32, and Erriquez, 23.
Sidon police and the Palestine Liberation Organization say they are held by the Fatah Revolutionary Council terrorist group led by Abu Nidal, but it denies responsibility.
Christen and Erriquez are among 18 Westerners held hostage in Lebanon, who include eight Americans. Held longest is Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, abducted March 16, 1985.
Most Western hostages are believed held by Shiite Moslem kidnappers loyal to Iran.
In an interview published Sunday in Tehran, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, the former Iranian foreign minister, said Iran does not want relations with the United States, and the Lebanese have a right to hold foreign hostages.
The English-language Tehran Times quoted him as saying Iran seeks diplomatic relations with all countries except the United States, Israel and South Africa.
″Lebanese Sunnis, Shiites, Druse and Christians are the hostages of the U.S., Israel and other Western powers, so it’s their natural right to take hostages to inflict heavy blows on their enemies,″ Mohtashemi said.
″No negotiations, but force, is the answer to what the enemies of the Lebanese have done against that deprived nation.″