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Publications Say Waite, Americans To Be Freed Soon

October 8, 1988

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Several news reports say Anglican church envoy Terry Waite and American hostages will soon be freed, but one suggested Waite may be released only when Britain renews ties with Syria.

One of Friday’s reports came from a new Israeli weekly, The Nation, which published an unattributed story saying the United States made a deal with Iran to free American hostages. It said the agreement included delivery of weapons and spare parts to Iran through South Korea.

U.S. officials denied the report. They have said repeatedly they will not bargain with the kidnappers and that no direct talks have been held with Iran.

A Beirut magazine, Ash-Shiraa, said Waite, missing since January 1987, will be freed with two other British hostages.

It also quoted a security source as saying the release Monday of Mithileshwar Singh, an Indian who is a resident U.S. alien, marked ″the beginning of the release of more American hostages″ before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.

Singh was kidnapped Jan. 24, 1987, at Beirut University College with three Americans - Alann Steen, Robert Polhill and Jesse Turner. All four taught at the school.

Steen’s wife, Virginia-Rose, who returned to Beirut on Friday from a summer trip to the United States, said today, ″We are hopeful that all three will be released very soon.″

Mrs. Steen, a fine arts professor at Beirut University College, said she wanted to be in Beirut with the wives of Polhill and Turner. Shiite extremists shun the kidnapping of women.

Peggy Say, the sister of American Terry Anderson, the longest-held foreign hostage, said in Lexington, Ky., Friday that her brother will be ″devastated″ if his release is not obtained by the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Referring to information she received from a recently freed hostage, Mrs. Say said: ″Terry is geared to the elections. He feels it will take that to get him out of there. I’m afraid if they come and go, it’s going to be very devastating to him.″ Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, was kidnapped March 16, 1985.

Al-Anwar, a conservative daily newspaper based in Christian east Beirut, quoted one unidentified source as saying Waite was moved from the Bekaa valley to Beirut’s southern suburbs and predicted he would be freed within 72 hours.

Another unidentified source, however, said he would be freed when Britain restores diplomatic relations with Syria, Al-Anwar reported. The Anglican church and British government said they had no new information about Waite.

Britain severed relations with Syria in November 1986, accusing it of involvement in a plot to blow up an Israeli airliner.

Syria, the major power broker in Lebanon and an ally of Iran, has said it is working for release of all hostages held in Lebanon. Most are believed to be in the hands of Shiite Moslems loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s fundamentalist revolution.

Both Beirut publications have been inaccurate in recent reports about hostages. But Ash-Shiraa correctly revealed in November 1986 that the United States had secretly delivered arms to Iran, shipments that gave rise to the Iran-Contra affair.

The report about arms in The Nation said the U.S. government also agreed to pay $7 million ransom to Shiite Moslem extremists holding the hostages but refused their demand for immunity from prosecution.

Lebanese police said Friday two unidentified foreigners kidnapped in Moslem west Beirut 21 months ago were Czechoslovak businessmen held only a few days. The report leaves 14 foreigners missing in Lebanon, including nine Americans.

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