White House Asked for Israeli Help in Locating Hostages, NBC Says
NEW YORK (AP) _ Israeli intelligence was working through most of 1986 to help develop a plan for American commandos to rescue U.S. hostages held in Lebanon, according to diplomatic sources quoted by NBC News on Tuesday.
NBC quoted the sources as saying that Lt. Col. Olvier North told the Israeli government early in 1986 that President Reagan wanted an all-out effort to locate the hostages in Beirut or the Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon.
The government of then-prime minister Shimon Peres sent an intelligence unit into Lebanon to track the hostages, NBC said, and avoided attacking areas controlled by the Shiite militia that is behind many of the kidnappings.
The NBC report said Israel was never able to locate the hostages and that Israeli officials now think that North may have been acting on his own when he requested their cooperation.
The NBC report also quoted a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Iran-Contra arms affair as saying that an Iranian contact had warned against a U.S. rescue attempt.
The contact, reportedly an associate of Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, warned that the kidnappers were nervous about a possible rescue and anything that fanned those fears would make it harder to get the hostages released, NBC said.
The White House declined to comment on the NBC report. A spokesman, Roman Popadiuk, said the administration stood by its previous statement that the White House wants the full Senate Intelligence Committee report released and would not comment on every detail that might come out in the interim.
Previous reports have said that President Reagan in 1985 ordered intensified efforts to find and free the American hostages. The Washington Post reported in November that this was prompted by fears that William Buckley, one of the Americans kidnapped in Beirut and who was the chief of the CIA’s Beirut operations, had been tortured and killed.