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Families of Hostages Meet in Illinois

March 30, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ Shiite Moslem extremists have been driven by hardship to the ″desperation measure″ of kidnapping Americans, a hostage’s wife said after meeting with families of others held captive in the Middle East.

Carol Weir, whose husband, Benjamin, has been held for nearly a year, said at a news conference Friday that her husband’s captors had ″suffered greatly. And I believe that they are seeking dialogue with the United States.″

The Islamic Holy War has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

″I believe they have been driven to this desperation measure. Their lives and livelihoods have been threatened by the presence in southern Lebanon of Israeli occupational forces which are supported militarily and politically by the U.S.,″ Mrs. Weir said.

Weir, 61, a Presbyterian minister, was kidnapped at gunpoint May 8. The Weirs had been mission workers in Lebanon for 32 years and had lived in Beirut since 1961.Mrs. Weir, 60, appealed to the U.S. government to ″open the lines of communications in all directions.″

Earlier Friday, Mrs. Weir and her son, John, 27, met in Joliet with the families of two other hostages, the Rev. Lawrence Jenco of Joliet and Terry Anderson, Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut.

Mae Mihelich, Jenco’s sister, invited the Weirs and Anderson’s sisters - Peggy Say and Judy Blouin, both of Batavia, N.Y. - to discuss ways of publicizing the hostages’ plight.

″They have the same problems we do,″ Mrs. Mihelich said.

Jenco, 50, head of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut, was taken at gunpoint Jan. 8; Anderson, 37, was kidnapped March 16.

Ms. Say said she felt guilty that she had not been politically active or taken action when earlier kidnappings occurred.″We’re voters and we’re supposed to have control,″ she said.

The only communication from Weir was a letter to Presbyterian church officials dated Feb. 15, his wife said. In that letter, he urged the church to encourage the U.S. government to work for the release of Islamic prisoners being held in Kuwait.

Mrs. Mihelich received a similar letter recently from Jenco.

Other Americans being held captive in Lebanon are William Buckley, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy, and American University librarian Peter Kilburn.

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