ROME (Sep. 28)
President Richard M. Nixon and Premier Emilio Colombo, of Italy, greeted 33 released American hijack victims today when their chartered TWA jet touched down at Rome airport enroute from Nicosia. Cyprus to New York. President Nixon, who arrived in Rome yesterday on the first leg of a European tour, boarded the airliner and talked briefly to the passengers. Speaking to newsmen afterwards he credited United States policy during the hijack crisis with securing the release of the hostages. He said America’s problem was to show force and at the same time practice restraint and that the presence of the hijack victims here today unharmed confirmed that the U.S. had acted correctly. (In Washington today State Department spokesman John King said that no deal was made with the Palestinian guerrillas for release of the hostages. He said he spoke for Secretary of State William P. Rogers who is in Rome with President Nixon. “We are all gratified at the release of our fellow citizens following their three weeks’ ordeal as hostages.” Mr. King said, adding, “We pledge our continuing and unremitting efforts to obtain the release of the remaining six Americans now held against their will. We call upon those holding those passengers to release them immediately.” Mr. King referred to six Americans, all males, who were passengers on the TWA flight 741 hijacked Sept. 6. They were reported to have been freed by the guerrillas and handed over to the Egyptian Embassy in Amman. But they did not leave Jordan with the 33 other hostages. Mr. King said “We must assume they are in the hands of the guerrillas.” One U.S. official said the U.S. Embassy in Amman has been in touch with the Egyptian Embassy intermittently by phone but was unable to confirm that the six Americans are in Egyptian hands.)
The Middle East situation and the Mediterranean area generally were the main subjects of Mr. Nixon’s talks with Italian leaders today. He met with President Giuseppe Saragat, Premier Colombo and Foreign Minister Aldo Moro. The Italians endorsed the U.S. peace initiative and expressed hope that the cease-fire engineered by Secretary of State Rogers can be prolonged and that peace talks can resume under United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring. Mr. Rogers reportedly expressed optimism. He said that both sides in the conflict lately showed greater “disposability” to talk peace. Mr. Moro stressed that the climate for negotiations within the UN framework must be re-established. He said efforts should be made to reach a definitive political solution of the problem of the Palestinians.