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French Deny U.S. Has Influenced Their Policy on Hostages

September 3, 1986

PARIS (AP) _ The Foreign Ministry today denied allegations by a Lebanese group holding French captives that Paris is coordinating its policy on the hostages with the United States.

″The action engaged by the French government in view of obtaining freedom of French still held in Lebanon is determined by it (France) alone, and independent of anyone else,″ said a ministry statement issued today.

The Lebanese terrorist group Islamic Jihad issued a statement Tuesday in Beirut claiming France has submitted to orders from Washington ″for a total coordination with the great Satan on the hostages problem.″

The Islamic Jihad statement claimed there were ″signs of a solution for the hostages situation″ in March but that the Reagan administration told France not to respond to the group’s overtures.

″Consequently the door was slammed shut for any solution,″ said the typewritten statement delivered to a Western television network in Beirut. A 5-minute videotape of one of the French captives was delivered with it.

Seven Frenchmen and four Americans are missing in Lebanon, and Islamic Jihad has said it kidnapped the Americans and four of the Frenchmen. The group has said it killed two of the hostages, but their bodies have not been found.

Foreign Minister Jean-Bernard Raimond told reporters today, ″The conversations we have had with those who could exercise influence (on the kidnappers) are going normally. It is long and difficult.

″I don’t see any change (in policy) that could be linked to this communique″ from Islamic Jihad, he said.

In Santa Barbara, Calif., White House spokesman Larry Speakes said in response to the claim of U.S. influence on Paris, ″I never heard that one way or the other.″

The statement by Islamic Jihad, or Islamic Holy War, also renewed its demand that two Iraqi opposition activists deported from France to Iraq in February be returned to Paris.

If that is not done, the statement said, Islamic Jihad will ″bear no responsibility for any negative act that would affect the lives of the hostages.″

The French Foreign Ministry replied in a statement Tuesday, ″The two Iraqi citizens mentioned in the Islamic Jihad communique recently asked for and received their visa to return to France.

″They told our ambassador in Iraq ... of the intention to return to France at the time of the opening of university to resume their studies at the University of Paris.″

The Iraqi opposition activists, Fawzi Hamzeh and Hassan Kheireddine, were deported from France as part of a roundup of suspects after a series of terrorist attacks. They are Shiite Moslems. Islamic Jihad is believed made up of Shiites who are loyal to Iraq’s enemy, Iran.

Islamic Jihad claimed in its statement that Hamzeh and Kheireddine were imprisoned in Iraq. However, the Iraqi ambassador to France, Mohamed Sadiq El- Mascwat, said on French television today that they had been pardoned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and were ″free to leave as they like.″

″I’m certain that they will come to Paris,″ he said.

The videotape delivered with the Islamic Jihad message showed captive French journalist Jean-Paul Kauffmann from the shoulders up, wearing a white T-shirt. He was clean-shaven, thin and pale.

″Let our leaders know that an armed intervention would be a suicide operation and would mean our death,″ he said in the tape, broadcast by Lebanese government television.

An Islamic Jihad statement last week said the American hostages would be killed if the United States attempted a rescue.

Kauffmann said he and two other French hostages held with him, embassy officials Marcel Fontaine and Marcel Carton, lived with ″the specter of death looming on us every minute. We have reached the end of the road.″

″The key to our liberation is with the French government only. The option is simple now: either we see our families and children or we die,″ Kauffmann said.

He and the others had hopes of freedom when two other French hostages were released last June, the journalist said, ″but nothing was accomplished. Our government ... is not interested any more in our case and we have the feeling that we are completely forgotten and abandoned.″

French television correspondent Philippe Rochot, 39, and cameraman Georges Hansen, 45, were freed in June.

Kauffmann, 43, worked for a French weekly. He was kidnapped May 22, 1985, along with research analyst Michel Seurat. He did not mention Seurat in the tape.

In March, Islamic Jihad said it killed Seurat, 38, in retaliation for the expulsion of the two Iraqi activists from France.

The Americans Islamic Jihad says it holds are Terry A. Anderson, 38, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press; David Jacobsen, 55, director of the American University hospital; and Thomas Sutherland, 55, acting dean of agriculture at the university. The group said last October that it killed William Buckley, 58, a U.S. Embassy political officer, but no body was found.

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