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Iran’s President Assails U.S. Response in Hostages’ Release

May 3, 1990

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ President Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran said Thursday the groups holding hostages in Lebanon released two Americans at Iran’s prodding, but that the United States was still acting like a spoiled child.

He also said Iran is not restoring diplomatic ties with the United States.

Robert Polhill, 55, of New York, was freed April 22 and eight days later a second U.S. educator held hostage, Frank Reed, 57, of Malden, Mass., was freed.

Rafsanjani said the kidnappers released the two ″at our suggestion. They could have ... rejected our advice. But they accepted our advice.″

In his speech to a group of teachers in Tehran, Iran’s capital, Rafsanjani compared the U.S. response to that of ″a stubborn, frustrated child.″

The speech was carried by Tehran Radio and monitored in Nicosia.

President Bush told a news conference in Washington Thursday he was cheered by the release of Polhill and Reed, but was unwilling to make any conciliatory gestures toward Iran at this time.

Bush has repeatedly declared he will not negotiate with Iran or the Lebanese Shiite Moslem kidnappers for the release of hostages.

But he did promise to help Iran get details on the fate of four Iranian diplomats kidnapped in Lebanon in 1982, calling it a goodwill gesture and not an attempt to bargain for U.S. hostages.

″This is something they feel very strongly about,″ Bush said. ″They’ve mentioned it to us several different times.″

Sixteen Westerners, including six Americans, are missing in Lebanon. Most are believed held by groups controlled by Hezbollah, the Iranian-financed Party of God. Longest held is Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, kidnapped March 16, 1985.

In London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Thursday welcomed Syria’s and Iran’s role in gaining freedom for Polhill and Reed, but said Britain will not deal with hostage-takers.

She is under pressure to secure the release of British hostages in Lebanon. Three Britons and an Irishman with dual British and Irish citizenship are held, including Terry Waite, special envoy of Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.

Rafsanjani said Thursday that ″an angry, revolutionary, enraged group, after it released one hostage without pre-conditions, and was confronted with America’s irresponsible reaction, should reasonably have taken revenge.

″But they still showed decency and showed their extreme goodwill″ by freeing Reed as well.

″American bullies, instead of being impressed by the move, reiterated their previous stance.″

Rafsanjani acknowledged that Bush expressed appreciation publicly to Iran and Syria for their role, but said his administration ″on the other hand ... started a vile propaganda move, stating ’We will not normalize ties until Iran releases all hostages.‴

Rafsanjani said Iran was not interested in restoring relations and denied Western press reports that Tehran helped secure the two recent releases because it needs to resume diplomatic ties with the United States.

″Iran does not want relations with the United States, and we welcomed severing ties,″ he said. ″We are not prepared to talk to America.″

A dispatch Thursday from Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said arbitration talks between America and Iran in the Netherlands were focusing only on legal issues.

The two sides have been working for nine years to settle financial disputes stemming from the 1979 Islamic revolution. IRNA said a statement from the delegation stressed that ″no other topics, either political or economic, have been or will be discussed.″

Rafsanjani’s comments Thursday appeared to rule out a possible dialogue with the United States to end 11 years of hostility.

But they also indicated that Rafsanjani, leader of those seeking broader contacts for Iran, was under mounting pressure from anti-Westerners angered at Iran’s role in the release of the two Americans.

Rafsanjani praised the groups in Lebanon for taking the initiative on the releases and castigated Washington, saying, ″Instead of giving an appropriate reward for this initiative, the U.S. reacted by saying it will not negotiate with kidnappers, as if Israel and the (Lebanese) Phalangists are not kidnappers.″

He was referring to Arabs held by Israel, including Hezbollah leader Sheik Abdul-Karim Obeid, who was seized in Lebanon on July 28. Lebanese Christian militiamen, the armed wing of the Phalangist Party, seized the four missing Iranians in July 1982.

In Wiesbaden, West Germany, U.S. military officials said Reed will head home Friday after spending Thursday undergoing further debriefings by a special team seeking clues about other Westerner hostages.

Reed’s daughter by an earlier marriage, Marilyn Langston, said in Malden Thursday that during his 43 months in captivity, Reed was told his mother had died and did not learn she was alive until he was released this week.

Reed’s mother, 91-year-old Leota Sprague, shares an apartment in Malden with Reed’s wife, Fahima, and the couple’s 9-year-old son, Tarek.

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