Nine Frenchmen Held Hostage in Iraq Arrive in Amman With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
ABDUL JALIL MUSTAFA
Oct. 03, 1990
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Nine Frenchmen held hostage in Iraq were released in Baghdad on Wednesday and arrived in Jordan with the private French group that secured their release.
French President Francois Mitterrand, meanwhile, arrived in Abu Dhabi, the first stop on his two-day Persian Gulf visit to meet regional leaders and inspect France's troops.
His arrival came just hours after the nine former hostages arrived in Amman aboard a regularly scheduled Iraqi Airways flight.
''I am very happy that I have been released but a lot of people remain in Iraq and Kuwait,'' said Jean-Yves Bobin, who had been detained in Kuwait. ''We hope they can be freed soon and that all things will develop toward a peaceful solution.''
The nine, who received their exit visas from Iraq on Tuesday, were to return to France later Wednesday, French Foreign Ministry officials at Amman's airport said.
Iraq agreed to release the hostages during a visit by a five-member French delegation headed by Gilles Munier, who heads the private Association for French-Iraqi Friendship.
He called the hostages' release a ''generous gesture'' by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and appealed for a softening of France's hard-line policy toward Baghdad since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
Munier is a member of the National Front, the ultraconservative French political Party headed by Jean-Marie Le Pen. Diplomatic sources in Baghdad said Le Pen himself might visit Iraq to seek the release of more Frenchmen.
About 300 French nationals are among the thousands of Westerners being held in Iraq and Kuwait to deter any attack by the U.S.-led military forces in the Persian Gulf region.
The release came just two days after Iraq said it was willing to hold contacts with the French government in an attempt to resolve the crisis peacefully.
Mitterrand suggested last week at the United Nations that the resolution of the gulf crisis might be followed by initiatives to solve the problems of Lebanon and the Palestinians.
But Mitterrand has reiterated the West's insistence that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and free all hostages before negotiations take place.
Mitterrand's visit to the Middle East was the first by a Western leader with forces stationed in the region to protect Saudi Arabia and other gulf states from Iraq.
After meeting leaders and reviewing French troops in Abu Dhabi, he was to visit Saudi Arabia for talks with King Fahd and possibly visit ground troops deployed at a forward staging area in the kingdom.
France is beefing up its ground forces to 4,000 men in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, including a regiment of Foreign Legionnaires.
France now has 13,000 men plus a dozen warships in the region or on their way, the largest overseas deployment of French troops since the Algerian war.
Mitterrand said Sept. 6 that he intended to visit the gulf. It was the same day he announced a major increase in French forces in the region in response to a raid by Iraqi troops on the French ambassador's residence in Kuwait.