U.S. Calls for Maximum Possible Prosecution of Ship’s Hijackers

The Reagan Administration called today for the prosecution “to the maximum extent possible” of the terrorists who hijacked the Italian cruise ship seized near Port Said on Sunday andreleased near the same site today. But the White House and the State Department said this afternoon they were still awaiting details as to whether all the passengers had been released safely or whether the hijackers had been granted safe passage by the Egyptians.

The Administration was waiting for word from U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Nicholas Veliotes, who was enroute to Port Said. The Egyptian government claimed that the ship and all of the some 400 passengers and crew aboard, including about a dozen Americans, had been released unharmed. The Egyptian account conflicted with the subsequent report by Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi that one of the passengers was missing. (See separate story.)

Reading from a prepared statement, Charles Redman, a State Department spokesman, said: “Our position on hostage taking is clear. We believe those responsible should be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible.”

But Redman would not comment on what role the U.S. had, beyond general consultations with the governments of countries in the region or whose citizens were aboard the ship. He stressed, in response to questions, that whatever decision had been taken by Egypt to resolve the crisis “was an independent Egyptian decision” and that the “details were arranged strictly by the Egyptian government.”

Redman also declined to say whether the U.S. had been involved in any discussions with the Palestine Liberation Organization, although he maintained that neither the U.S. policy of not talking to the PLO or American willingness to have “discussions” with anyone toward obtaining the safety of U.S. citizens had changed, and that the two policies were “not contradictory.”

SHULTZ AND SHAMIR MEET

Earlier today, Secretary of State George Shultz and visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir emerged from a morning meeting with brief statements saying they concurred on the need to deal firmly with terrorism.

Shultz said the two were in “complete agreement on the fact that terrorism is a great threat to all of us and it must be dealt with firmly and stopped.”

Alluding to the U.S. reaction to Israel’s attack on the PLO headquarters in Tunis last week — the Administration called the move a legitimate act of self-defense, then “deplored” the raid — Shamir said:

“There could be some differences from time to time, but there is no doubt that we have a common gain and we believe the United States and Israel believe that we have to struggle and stand firmly against all terrorist activities.”

The two, who were to meet again later in the day, said they spoke generally about the operation of the joint U.S.-Israel political military groups, the Israeli economy, the peace process, Soviet Jewry and U.S. arms sales to Jordan. Shultz will testify tomorrow before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the proposed arms sale.

NEXT STORY