Hostages’ Families Hopeful But Cautious About Promise of Freedom With PM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
Undated (AP) _ Relatives of about 3,000 Americans trapped in Kuwait and Iraq said they were encouraged by Saddam Hussein’s promise to release women and children today, but they had doubts about whether he would keep his word.
″I’ll believe it when I see them home in this state. Until then, I’m just praying,″ Margaret Nuzum of Hutchinson, Kan., said Tuesday. Her daughter, son-in-law and their two young children last got a call through from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Aug. 19.
Shortly after Saddam’s televised meeting Tuesday with foreign hostages, he decreed that women and children would be free to leave Iraq today.
Some Americans said Saddam’s TV appearance was a propaganda ploy.
″I would love to see my husband,″ said Patricia Hale of Spring, Texas, whose husband, Edward, is trapped in the Middle East. ″In another way, I wish they would quit showing them (American hostages) because it’s just propaganda and we’re playing into Hussein’s hands.″
Saddam’s vow broke the monotony for relatives who have kept a monthlong vigil for Americans caught in Iraq or Kuwait. News of those trapped has been hard to come by since Iraq overran Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Kathy Majerek was dealing with housework and two young children when the television flashed her brother, hostage Kevin Bazner, face to face with Saddam.
Just then the State Department called to tell Majerek: Sorry, no news. ″I told them to take a look at their TV,″ she said from Ogden, Utah. ″Kevin had the mike for about three minutes. It was hard to hear, but he said something about a peaceful solution.″
In the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, another of Bazner’s sisters, Patricia Heath, said, ″We’re waiting with bated breath now.″
She said the family had not heard from Bazner since Aug. 14. ″Hearing him and knowing he is safe and comfortable, of course that makes me feel good,″ she said.
When the Gerards of New Harmony, Ind., heard of Saddam’s vow, they reined in their emotions. ″I don’t want to be a downer, but he’s said things before. ... He said he was going to let all the diplomats go,″ said Pauline Gerard. ″Everything hinges on this ... and I don’t want to be crushed.″
Mrs. Gerard had been waiting for good news since her pregnant sister got trapped while visiting Kuwaiti in-laws. ″I don’t want to get my hopes up too much because I don’t want to fall down too far if it doesn’t work out,″ she said.
Michael Saba, founder of the Coming Home Committee, was more effusive.
″It’s just an excellent sign,″ said the Champaign, Ill., businessman, who escaped Iraq shortly after the invasion.
″Whether the men are soon to follow or whether that’s something that has to be worked out isn’t clear, but I’d say the signs are good,″ he said. ″I think we’re seeing some signs that say there’s some ... interest in de- escalating the situation.″
Saddam also agreed Tuesday to talk to President Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about ending the Persian Gulf crisis.
Despite the conciliatory gestures, Baghdad hardened its position on Kuwait, declaring it a 19th province of Iraq. That concerns Jo Ellen Buehler, whose sister is married to a Kuwaiti air force officer.
″I’m going to stay excited and keep everyone’s spirits as high as I can because that’s all we have to clutch onto,″ Buehler said from Memphis, Tenn. ″(But) I don’t want to jump the gun.″
Buehler said she’s worried that Saddam means only to free the estimated 500 Americans trapped in Iraq. ″He didn’t say anything about Kuwait,″ said Buehler, who hasn’t heard from her sister since Aug. 3 when she and three young nephews were among about 2,500 Americans stuck in the annexed country. ″What about Kuwait?″