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Hostage Families Welcome Saddam’s Promise of Freedom By Christmas With PM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt

December 7, 1990

Undated (AP) _ Relatives of about 900 American hostages were waiting today for Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to follow through on his promise to release all ″foreign guests″ in time for Christmas.

″All we can do now is live in the hope that he really is coming home,″ said Shirley Carroll of Augusta, Ga., whose husband is among holdouts at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.

″It’s more or less a wait-and-see game,″ said Elsie Lucille Hughes of Albuquerque, N.M., whose husband and son are hiding in Kuwait. ″We’re waiting to see ... whether it’s got conditions attached to it or not.″

Family and friends of American captives were elated by the Iraqi president’s turnaround, but they were also wary of tricks. For those with loved ones in hiding, such a prospect was especially fearsome.

″If you take (Saddam) at face value, then they’re going to be released,″ said attorney David McDonald Jr., whose client and friend is among those in hiding. ″The question then becomes when? Is this a ploy to draw everyone out?″

Doubts aside, the promise brought new hope to families.

″We’ve been waiting and waiting, trying and trying to get him out and hitting brick walls,″ said Sue Iliff, whose brother is among holdouts at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. ″So this first ray of hope is like a gift.″

Saddam called for the release of all hostages in a directive approved overwhelmingly today by the Iraqi parliament. The government said foreigners could start applying for exit visas immediately.

″We’re really emotional about this because Christmas is a big holiday with our family ... a very special time of year,″ Mrs. Iliff said from Stover, Mo. ″But we’re being careful.″

Marie Butcher spoke with her son-in-law, Guy Seago, Thursday by telephone from the military installation where he has been held by Iraqi troops.

″He’s packed and ready to leave. I warned him it might take some time to get out ... but he’s still just so thrilled,″ Mrs. Butcher said from Johnson City, Tenn. ″We’ve got all our Christmas presents wrapped and ready.″

Marjorie Walterscheid received a similar call from her husband, Rainard Walterscheid, one of a group of American oil workers taken off their rigs and into custody by Iraqi troops.

″He said, ’I’m ready to come home ... I’m really, you know, I’m really tired. I just want to get home. Get back to work,‴ she said from Jacksboro, Texas. ″And I said, ‘Well maybe we’d go on a honeymoon or something.’ He just kind of laughed.″

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