Hostages’ Families, Friends Thank Algerians for Help
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Families and friends of hostages in Lebanon marked the new year Thursday with a ceremony thanking the Algerians for their strong support over the years in trying to free people held captive.
″My government will continue to work relentlessly,″ said Mohamed Sahnoun, Algeria’s ambassador to the United States. ″We will not give up.″
Those attending the ceremony at the Algerian Embassy included Gen. Alfred M. Gray, the Marine Corps commandant; seven Americans who were hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Iran eight years ago, and several relatives of the Americans now in captivity.
Gray said he came to the ceremony because he had a ″great interest in the whole progress″ of the hostage situation.
Several, including Peggy Say of Cadiz, Ky., the sister of Terry Anderson, the longest-held of the nine American hostages in Lebanon, urged President- elect Bush and other Americans not to forget the hostages in the new year. Anderson, the chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, was kidnapped in March 1985.
″We need continued awareness ... not out-of-sight, out-of-mind,″ said Ruth Anne Troxell of Front Royal, Va., the cousin of hostage Frank Reed of Medford, Mass.
But Say said it is not easy to keep attention focused on the issue.
″The American public is basically burnt out on hostage situations,″ she said. ″The sad reality is they are not show business.″
While Say said she has not talked with anyone in the Bush transition office about the hostages, she hoped that theaid, was that the United States is opening talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Sahnoun, meanwhile, said the Algerians, who played a role as intermediaries in the release of 52 Americans from Iran in 1981, will continue to work for freedom for the hostages.
On several occasions, signs indicated the hostages might be released but ″outside events disrupted the process,″ he said. He refused to elaborate, saying, ″It is better to be discreet.″
Say said events such as the U.S. downing of two Libyan jets over the Mediterranean on Tuesday did not encourage peace in the region.
L. Bruce Laingen, a former U.S. diplomat at the embassy in Tehran, recalled how the American hostages in Iran came to the Algerian Embassy for a ceremony after they were freed. There they found hundreds of thousands of letters from Americans, thanking the Algerians for their help, he said.
The ceremony was sponsored by No Greater Love, a non-profit group that provides support for the families of hostages and others harmed by terrorism.
Carmella LaSpada, the head of the group, presented Sahnoun with a plaque expressing appreciation to the Algerians. The plaque will be placed in the Friendship Forest near Algiers, a 20-acre park that has been landscaped by the U.S. government.
The project, expected to cost about $100,000, involved shipping trees to the park, including 12 Giant Redwood seedlings.
Other hostage relatives at the ceremony were Thomas Cicippio of Norristown, Pa., the brother of hostage Joseph Cicippio, and Elaine Collett, the wife of Alex Collett, a British journalist.