International Red Cross Selected As Agency for Negotiations with Hijackers

The International Red Cross has been selected as the agency for negotiations with the Arab hijackers holding 300 airline passengers hostage in Jordan, the State Department announced today. Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said that channel had been agreed to in inter-governmental consultations held here yesterday by Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Mr. McCloskey said that Andre Rachot is the IRC representative in charge. The spokesman said the U.S. was continuing urgent consultations with the other governments whose nationals are among the hostages. “The safety of all passengers and crewmen held in Jordan is our paramount concern in these efforts,” he said. He said he was not in a position to announce any action. Mr. McCloskey disclosed that Secretary Rogers conferred for an hour today with Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, CIA director Richard Helm, White House foreign policy advisor Henry Kissinger and Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco on the problem of the hijacked passengers. Yesterday Mr. Rogers met with the Ambassadors of Britain and Israel and the West German and Swiss Charges d’Affaires. Mr. McCloskey said that “as we understand it, the demand of the hijackers is that members of their group detained in Germany, the UK and Switzerland were to be released before any of the passengers and crews would be released.”

Mr. McCloskey said however that there “would not be all of the demands of the fedayeen…but I can’t speak for them.” He said part of their demands concerned Israel but he did not know what they were. He said that as of now he did not know of any demands made on the U.S. government. He said he knew of no contact between U.S. officials and the hijackers. Mr. McCloskey could give only approximate figures on the number of passengers held hostage. He said there were between 135-140 passengers on the TWA flight and about 100 are still aboard the aircraft. the remainder at hotels in Amman. He said the Swissair jet carried about the same number of passengers and about 50 remained on the plane, the rest at hotels in Amman. Mr. McCloskey said he had no knowledge of reports that any passengers were segregated for reasons of nationality or religion. He said he could not confirm at this time that about 40 American hostages also hold Israeli passports. Mr. McCloskey said he was not aware that any of the governments concerned were prepared to yield to the hijackers’ demands at this time. He said the U.S. was hoping for concerted actions but observed that it can’t dictate other governments’ actions.

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