Former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson says he has been trying to negotiate with Iran's foreign minister to free the U.S. hostages held by Iranian sympathizers in Lebanon.
Vice President George Bush, however, said Jackson should not get involved.Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati is in New York for discussions at the United Nations on ending Iran's 8-year-old war with Iraq.
"No meetings have been set, but I have been making appeals, through diplomats, to set up a meeting," Jackson said from his Chicago home in a telephone interview.
"I did talk to the U.N. secretary-general earlier this week on the same subject."
On Tuesday, Iran's parliament speaker, Hashemi Rafsanjani, offered to help get the nine Americans freed if the United States would release Iranian assets frozen since 1979. The Reagan administration responded that it will make no deals for the hostages' release.
The hostages are believed to be held by Shiite Moslems with links to Iran.
Jackson said he is using several Middle Eastern diplomats as intermediaries in his attempts to negotiate the hostages' release.
Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins said the feelers toward Velayati are part of a continuing effort the civil rights leader has been making toward winning the hostages' freedom.
Jackson's efforts have included appeals to political leaders, newspaper advertisements and radio and television spots in several Middle Eastern countries, Watkins said Wednesday night.
The former candidate said he feels prospects for their release have improved considerably because of the cease-fire talks between Iran and Iraq.
"Those who are held over there had nothing to do with starting the war, but to release them would be a good sign that the war was ending," he said.
In January 1984, Jackson met directly with President Hafez Assad of Syria and arranged the release of Navy Lt. Robert O. Goodman Jr., whose plane was shot down over Lebanon Dec. 4, 1983, during an American air strike.
The Reagan administration did not endorse Jackson's mission.
In an interview published Thursday in USA Today, Bush, the certain GOP presidential noiminee, called Jackson a "loose cannon" when asked whether Jackson should have a role as an envoy to free the hostages.
"It shouldn't happen. We're talking about very sensitive foreign policy."