Hezbollah Leader Wants Hostage Issue Solved
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ The spiritual guide of a pro-Iranian group believed to be holding Western hostages in Lebanon called Sunday for a solution to the problem but also accused the United States of playing politics with the issue.
″We call for a just and practical solution to this problem to achieve a happy ending,″ said Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, or Party of God.
Hezbollah is believed to be an umbrella group for extremist Shiite Moslem factions holding most of the 18 foreigners, including nine Americans, hostage in Lebanon.
Over the past two years Fadlallah has repeatedly called for a resolution of the hostage issue, but there has been no known response from the kidnappers.
The hostage held longest is Terry Anderson, 40, chief Middle East Correspondent of The Associated Press, who was seized March 16, 1985.
Anderson’s sister, Peggy Say, reached by telephone at her home in Cadiz, Ky., said, ″I don’t see that it (the holding of hostages) should be a political issue. It’s a human issue.
″Everything I’ve been hearing out of the Middle East lately gives us reason to hope and it’s been a very, very long time since we’ve had occasion to be hopeful.″
She expressed appreciation to Fadlallah and Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, who she said have made positive statements about the hostage situation.
″We are aware that the (hostage) problem has reached such a degree of complexity that its political aspect has become mixed up with its humanitarian aspect,″ said Fadlallah. ″We feel pain for the detention (of the hostages) because the issue has humanitarian aspects,″ he told hundreds of Shiites in a sermon marking the major Moslem feast of Eid al-Adha.
Speaking in south Beirut’s Bir el-Abed Mosque, Fadlallah accused the United States and European nations of ″manipulating the issue of the hostages for political reasons to impose their dominance on the world.″
″America has not moved to fight terrorism but has rather used it as a means of political pressure on each country and people that resist its imperialist policies,″ he said.
The hostages are believed to be held in Hezbollah’s Hay Madi barracks about 10 blocks from Bir el-Abed in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Shiite stronghold.
Syria has had 5,000 troops patrolling most of the southern suburbs since May 27, but they have stayed away from the immediate area of the barracks, apparently to avoid a military confrontation that could imperil the hostages.
The Syrian soldiers, however, control all approaches to Hay Madi and man apartment buildings overlooking the barracks.
″On the occasion of this feast, we call on all sides to begin acting in a political sphere so that the humanitarian aspect of this problem could be resolved,″ Fadlallah said.
It was not clear whether his call signaled a breakthrough for the hostages.
The sermon represented Fadlallah’s first reference to the hostages since Iran announced July 18 it was accepting the year-old U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 calling for a cease-fire in its war with Iraq.
Iraq accepted the resolution soon after it was adopted by the council, and both countries are sending envoys to the United Nations to discuss setting a date for a cease-fire.
Political observers believe a truce could facilitate efforts for the release of the hostages.