American Teacher Leaves Beirut With PM-Lebanon-Hostages
LARNACA, CYPRUS (AP) _ American Robert Foss arrived in Cyprus today from west Beirut, saying the kidnapping of four teachers in the Lebanese capital on Saturday was ″the last straw.″
Foss, a Vermont native and the last American man teaching at the American Community School, told an AP Radio reporter after getting off a ferry from Lebanon that his evacuation was arranged by the U.S. Embassy and Lebanese security forces.
″I was very uptight after what happened at Beirut University College on Saturday night,″ he said. ″I was just hoping I would get out alive.″
He said the kidnapping of three American men and an Indian who were teachers at Beirut University College ″did it for me.″
″I’ve been there (in Beirut) for 20 years. I’ve been through almost every evacuation and return. This was the last straw, it really was.″
He said he figured, ″I could be next.″
Foss said his evacuation started next to the Riviera Hotel near the school. The hotel is where British hostage negotiator Terry Waite had his headquarters before he disappeared from sight Jan. 20.
Foss said he left in a car sitting between two Lebanese army officers with a jeepload of soldiers following behind. He was driven to Christian-control led east Beirut where he was met by security officiers of the U.S. Embassy.
″I was scared,″ he said. ″My heart was right in the top of my throat.″
Foss said he had not been out of the school building since two Americans were kidnapped four months ago. Eight Americans are now held hostage by groups in Lebanon.
Foss said the school, which in the early 1970s had 1,000 mostly American students, now has only Lebanese students with the exception of one Pole, one Bulgarian and one Yugoslav. The principal is an American woman married to a Lebanese.
Foss said he attended Vermont University and Middlebury College in Vermont.
Informed sources said they believed that with Foss’s departure there are only three known American men, who do not have dual American-Lebanese citizenship, left in west Beirut. Women so far have not been kidnap victims.
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday ordered all Americans, except embasssy personnel, to leave Lebanon in 30 days. It said special exceptions could be made for families of the hostages and journalists. Virginia Rose Steen, wife of hostage Alann Steen, is an American citizen and head of Beirut University College’s Fine Arts Department. As far as is known, she has not left Lebanon.
Foss said he and other Americans in Beirut ″sort of hung in there.″
″Before the war it was really a paradise, the climate, tourist attractions, the school,″ he said. ″We were hoping things would come back.″
″This was it,″ he said. ″It never will (come back).″
He flew from Larnaca to London.