Brandt Arrives in Frankfurt with 174 U.S, Other Foreign Hostages With AM-Gulf Rdp
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt arrived here Friday from Baghdad with three Americans and 171 other Westerners whose freedom he sought in talks with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.
One of the Americans, Miles Hoffman, 33, of Columbus, Ga., shot in the arm Sept. 5 by Iraqi forces in Kuwait, was immediately taken off the plane and taken to the U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, for a checkup, Air Force spokesman Capt. Tom Gilroy said.
A second American, Don Swanke, 66, of Westlake Village, Calif., also was taken to the U.S. hospital in Wiesbaden, 25 miles west of Frankfurt, for a precautionary checkup, Gilroy said. Swanke lost 33 pounds during his captivity.
The airport rang out with the cheers of the hundreds on hand for the arrival of the former hostages as the German jetliner touched down.
Relatives who hadn’t seen each other since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2 wept and embraced as they emerged from the plane. Some held signs reading, ″Thank you, Mr. Brandt.″ Others departed the plane carrying children; one woman hugged Brandt.
″Good riddance,″ Hoffman told TV cameras at the airplane boarding counter in Baghdad as he clutched onto his U.S. passport and boarding documents. His arm was in a cast and he seemed to be in pain.
Swanke and his wife, Brenda Swanke, were presented to reporters by U.S. authorities.
The captives, including 120 Germans, had been ordered freed by Saddam after he met with Brandt.
At least two other Americans were held back earlier when Iraqi officials told the U.S. Embassy their papers were not in order. It was unclear if they would be allowed to leave later.
Also on the plane were nationals from Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Holland, Portugal, Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg, the German carrier Lufthansa said. Earlier reports of a Canadian aboard could not be confirmed.
The airline’s manifest only listed nationalities, not names.
Brandt said upon his departure that he had discussed with Saddam efforts to achieve a durable and solid settlement for the problems of The Middle East.
At the Baghdad airport, Brandt told a news conference he was carrying proposals for settling the 3-month-old gulf crisis.
″I need a weekend to go through my notes and put together what I have,″ Brandt said, refusing to elaborate.
Brandt said he would consult with European leaders next week on the outcome of his talks with Hussein.
He said he was impressed with Saddam, adding, ″I have reasons to be most grateful to Saddam Hussein and the government, not only for their hospitality, but also because there is a prospect of peace.″
Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz, who accompanied Brandt to the airport, criticized Bush administration plans announced Thursday to send another 200,000 troops to the Persian Gulf.
″Bush should send diplomats, not more troops, and he should start a dialogue,″ the foreign minister said when reporters asked him for a reaction to the U.S. move.
″If he wants to scare Iraq he already has enough troops. The decision to send troops will not be helpful. It is not going to find a solution,″ Aziz said.
Americans are among foreign hostages held at strategic sites as ″human shields″ to deter attack by U.S.-led multinational forces stationed in the gulf.
Swanke, who was working as a construction engineer at Kuwait University at the time of the invasion, ″We were worried for a hundred days.″
″I was worried but I was not afraid,″ Mrs. Swanke added. She held onto her husband’s arm as they embarked on German-bound plane.
Swanke said that on Sept. 5, ″they (Iraqi troops) kicked our door down,″ and the couple were taken to the Regency Hotel in Kuwait.
From there they were taken to Baghdad, he said, ″where we stayed in a hotel for a week.″
He said the couple were then taken to Mosul, a town about 240 miles north of Baghdad, and kept in a house.
After three weeks the couple were moved onto a base, ″I think it was a missile assembly and storage area,″ Swanke said.
The couple said they had no idea why they were chosen to be released and credited Brandt with their final departure.
″They (Iraqis) wouldn’t give us our passports last night. They wouldn’t give them to us today. He (Brandt) personally intervened and got our name on the list,″ Swanke said.
Hoffman, a financial analyst with the Kuwaiti government at the time of Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion, was shot when Iraqi soldiers tried to force their way into his Kuwait City apartment, according to reports from Columbus.
The bullet shattered a bone in his left forearm and he was hospitalized for about a week, the reports said.
Hoffman was brought to Baghdad and then moved to a strategic site outside Baghdad. There were reports that gangrene had developed from the wound, and the U.S. Embassy had placed him on its list of release requests twice before.
Hoffman’s relatives, who had been working for weeks to win his release, were overjoyed when they were told by the State Department that he had been freed.
″Everything’s confirmed. It’s just marvelous. It’s just wonderful,″ his mother, Ann, said in Columbus.
″We’re ecstatic,″ said Hoffman’s brother, Chancellor. ″We need to check on his arm. He needs to get to a hospital.″