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Hostage Families React With Joy, Caution to Promise of Loved Ones’ Release With

December 6, 1990

Hostage Families React With Joy, Caution to Promise of Loved Ones’ Release With PM-Gulf-Foreigners, Bjt

Undated (AP) _ The families of about 900 American hostages held in Kuwait and Iraq awoke today to the promise of an end to the frustration and fear that have haunted them since Saddam Hussein sparked the Persian Gulf crisis four months ago.

″There were times I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep,″ said Doris Whatley of Shreveport, La. ″All of a sudden I am a changed person ... because my husband is coming home.″

Mrs. Whatley’s husband is an oil worker among about 90 of the Americans who are being used as ″human shields″ at strategic sites. He called from Baghdad this morning to share in his wife’s elation. But for the friends and relatives of other hostages it was a time of restraint.

″We’ll celebrate when we see them coming out and not before. At my age, you learn to have a little equanimity about these things,″ said Margaret Williams, whose son and daughter-in-law were working in Kuwait when Saddam’s troops invaded Aug. 2.

The couple’s daughter, Jennifer Williams, was among a group of about 20 Americans who, against State Department recommendations, traveled this week to Baghdad to seek their loved ones’ release.

″You can’t give up hope - there’s always hope,″ Mrs. Williams said this morning from her home in Germantown, Tenn. ″But this could well be just another one of (Saddam’s) cat-and-mouse games.″

Saddam called for the release of all foreign hostages in a directive to the Iraqi parliament, a decision he said was prompted by recent diplomatic moves that may include President Bush’s proposal for direct U.S.-Iraqi talks.

The directive, which did not say when the captives would be freed, followed Saddam’s previous offer to release all hostages over a three-month period beginning Christmas Day, ″if nothing mars the atmosphere of peace.″

″So far we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric, double-talk and half-truths,″ said David McDonald Jr., whose old friend and client is among the Americans who have been hiding in Kuwait. ″But this seems like the first serious break.″

Bonnie Anderton of Larkspur, Colo., whose husband has been holed up at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, agreed Saddam’s directive was a potential turning point in the Persian Gulf crisis.

″But (Saddam) has a habit of putting real nasty catches on things,″ said Mrs. Anderton, who was among the wives and children released several weeks after the invasion occurred. ″It looks good, but we still need more details.″

Still, families could not help but cheer the long-awaited early-morning news. Around the country, relatives stayed home from work to follow the story and celebrate the first glimmer of hope they’d seen in weeks.

″It’s an answer to our prayers. We have been praying him home for Christmas ... and it looks like our answer is coming,″ said Rande Vellekoop, whose husband has been stranded at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

″I feel freed too ... but none of us are ever going to be the same,″ she said this morning from Minneapolis. ″There will be emotional and mental stuff in becoming a family again.

″I’m sure it will take some time,″ Mrs. Vellekoop said. ″But I don’t mind that at all. Not one bit.″

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