Security Council in Emergency Meeting on Hijackings; U.S. Calls for Release of All Captives

The United States, acting jointly with Britain, has asked for an immediate meeting of the Security Council to seek the support of all member states for the release of the hostages held in Jordan, it was announced here this morning by State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey. He made the announcement at a press briefing devoted almost entirely to questions about the aerial hijackings and their victims. Mr. McCloskey said the U.S. wanted the support of all Security Council members for “international measures that might sensibly be applied to thwart such activities as have happened.” He said the request for the meeting was conveyed by U.S. Ambassador Charles Yost to Dr. Davidson S.H.W. Nicol of Sierra Leone, this month’s Security Council president. Mr. McCloskey also disclosed that the White House has ordered six U.S. military transport planes presently in Turkey to stand by with medical teams to evacuate the hostages in Jordan should that become necessary. He said that if necessary, the American planes would take out all nationalities. Asked if the U.S. was seeking political or military action by the Security Council, the State Department spokesman replied, “it is not my understanding that we are soliciting military action.”

(At the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Security Council began meeting in emergency session late this afternoon to act on a resolution by the United States and Britain which stated: “The Security Council, gravely concerned at the threat to innocent civilian lives from the hijacking of aircraft engaged in international travel, calls for immediate release of all passengers and crews without exception held as a result of these hijackings, calls on states to take all possible measures to ensure against further hijackings or any other interference with international civil air travel.”)

Mr. McCloskey confirmed that an International Red Cross team was negotiating with the hijackers–the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–for release of the hostages and that they were representing the governments of Britain, West Germany and Switzerland as well as the U.S., but not Israel. He said it was the objective of the governments to secure the release of all of the hostages. Asked if he would rule out a piece-meal arrangement–release of some but not all, Mr. McCloskey replied, “We couldn’t rule it out but that is not our objective.” He indicated that Israel was not represented by the IRC because it would have no dealings with the terrorists. Mr. McCloskey said all he knew of Israel’s position was what was said by Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin that the nations concerned should not submit to “blackmail.” But Mr. McCloskey confirmed reports that Jews among the hijacked passengers had been singled out by the terrorists. “We are very much disturbed to note an apparent pattern in the action of the PFLP that certain of the hostages are being treated on a separate basis of religion and this is deplorable,” he said. Asked what the U.S. would do if the hijackers released non-Jewish passengers but held Jews, Mr. McCloskey said that was a hypothetical question, adding, “It would just add cruelty to cruelty.”

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