JERUSALEM (Sep. 17)
Reliable sources here automatically denied today reports from Berne that Israel had offered to release two detained Algerian official as part of a multi-nation agreement for release of the remaining 54 hijacked hostages still held in Jordan by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Foreign Minister Abba Eban, in a statement made here before departing for New York to attend the 25th anniversary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, refused to discuss the reports. He said that the question was a dangerous one to discuss penly and that the position of the hostages might be hurt through such discussion. He expressed the view that the five states involved in the hijacking–the United States, West Germany. Britain, Switzerland and Israel–had not used all the options open to them.
Meanwhile, the despatch by the International Red Cross of a new negotiator, Pierre Boissier, to Jordan was being described in Geneva as a success in the efforts by West Germany and Britain to revive the negotiations, which were suspended by the Red Cross last Sunday. Informed sources in Geneva said the Popular Front had agreed to resume talks with Red Cross negotiators. West German officials were reported to have insisted they would start independent talks for the release of the British hostages unless the Red Cross could get a quick settlement but later, it was reported the West German Government was satisfied that joint discussions were being resumed under Red Cross auspices. The Popular Front has demanded the release by Israel of the two Algerians, a Swiss suspected by Israel of being a guerrilla agent. 10 Lebanese soldiers and an unspecified number of Arab terrorists held in Israeli jails. The Popular Front said it would not present Israel with a list of the Jailed guerrillas the hijackers want released until Israel agrees “in principle” to the release of the Algerians, the Swiss and the Lebanese. They also are demanding the release of seven guerrillas held in Europe in exchange for eight Britons, eight Swiss and two West Germans.
The latest hijack negotiation developments were complicated by the installation of a military government in Jordan and the outbreak of major warfare in central Jordan between the Jordanian army and various guerrilla groups, whose spokesmen were understood to have declared that they were ready for a “final battle” with Jordan’s new military government. Some sources were quoted in Jordan as saying the hostages could become “pawns” for use by the guerrillas in their spreading battle with the Jordanian Army. (Reliable sources in Washington said today that the remaining hostages had been removed from the area in Jordan where some of the most severe fighting between government troops and guerrillas was taking place. Late reports today indicated that the Jordanian army had smashed most of the guerrilla forces and that most of Amman had been cleared of commando fighters.)
Boissier and Marcel Boisard were sent to Amman by the Red Cross, raising to five the number of Red Cross negotiators now in Jordan. Red Cross officials reported the situation in Jordan to be so confused that the negotiators were finding it difficult to locate Palestinian representatives authorized to negotiate for the hostages. The sources here who said the reports on the Algerian officials were wrong added that Israel did in fact want to free the Algerians and had planned to do so until the series of hijackings took place on Aug. 30. The Algerians have not been freed at this time, the sources said, because Israel fears their release might be misinterpreted by the Popular Front as a sign of weakness which could result in prolonging the detention of the remaining hostages. The (In London, Prime Minister Edward Heath called today on the Jordanian government and the Popular Front not to harm any of the remaining hostages. The appeal was broadcast by the BBC world and Arab services. He declared that “the outbreak of fighting in Amman this morning has created new dangers for these hostages.” He added his government had consulted with other nations to find ways to protect the safety and lives of the hostages and of their governmental personnel in Jordan. A government spokesman said British military action was not envisaged but that plans had been made for evacuation of the estimated 160 British personnel in the embattled kingdom.)