Jackson Working To Free Hostages

Posted: July 28, 1988

NEW YORK — Former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson says he has been trying to negotiate with Iran's foreign minister to free the U.S. hostages held by Iranian sympathizers in Lebanon.

Vice President George Bush, however, said Jackson should not get involved.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati is in New York for discussions at the United Nations on ending Iran's 8-year-old war with Iraq.

"No meetings have been set, but I have been making appeals, through diplomats, to set up a meeting," Jackson said from his Chicago home in a telephone interview.

"I did talk to the U.N. secretary-general earlier this week on the same subject."

On Tuesday, Iran's parliament speaker, Hashemi Rafsanjani, offered to help get the nine Americans freed if the United States would release Iranian assets frozen since 1979. The Reagan administration responded that it will make no deals for the hostages' release.

The hostages are believed to be held by Shiite Moslems with links to Iran.

Jackson said he is using several Middle Eastern diplomats as intermediaries in his attempts to negotiate the hostages' release.

Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins said the feelers toward Velayati are part of a continuing effort the civil rights leader has been making toward winning the hostages' freedom.

Jackson previously has intervened through personal diplomacy in 1984, when he campaigned for president, to persuade Syria to free an American airman and to help obtain the release of 48 political prisoners from Cuba.

Both initiatives were at first criticized by President Reagan, who later praised Jackson's efforts after they proved successful.

The former candidate said he feels prospects for their release have improved considerably because of the cease-fire talks in New York between Iran and Iraq.

U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar told reporters late yesterday that he had made specific reference to the Lebanese hostage situation in a meeting with Velayati.

Iraq's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, also met with Perez de Cuellar yesterday and continued to insist on direct negotiations with Iran for a cease-fire.

Iran agreed last week to a year-old U.N. cease-fire resolution already supported by Iraq.

Velayati suggested yesterday that the United States should work to improve its relations with Tehran, implying that Iran might be more amenable about pressing pro-Iranian groups to release the American hostages they are holding.

There are 10 Americans and eight other westerners among at least 23 hostages who are believed to be held in Lebanon.

In an interview published today in USA Today, Bush, the certain GOP presidential nominee, called Jackson a "loose cannon" when asked whether Jackson should have a role as an envoy to free the hostages.

"It shouldn't happen. We're talking about very sensitive foreign policy. The administration is empowered to conduct those negotiations at the United Nations. We don't need any loose cannons rolling around the deck," Bush said.

comments powered by Disqus