The wives of two kidnapped American professors said Friday they are hopeful that their husbands will be freed soon because the captors appear to have softened their demands.

"I have a hunch that there is hope they will be released. I feel more relaxed now that I have seen the picture," said Badr Turner, referring to the snapshot of her husband and another hostage included with a statement from the kidnappers Thursday.Jesse Turner, 41, was a mathematics and computer science professor at the U.S.-affiliated Beirut University College when he was kidnapped on Jan. 24, 1987.

He was taken with two other Americans: Alann Steen, 49, a journalism professor, and Robert Polhill, 54, a lecturer in accounting. An Indian professor, Mithileshwar Singh, 60, was also grabbed.

A group calling itself the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine claimed their abduction. Initially, it demanded that the United States pressure Israel to free 400 Arab prisoners in return for the educators. Both governments rejected the demand.

But in a statement late Thursday, its first since Feb. 11, the group hinted it would consider freeing the men if the United States agreed within a week to support the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

It was the group's first statement in which they did not describe the captives as spies for the U.S. and Israel.

The captors' statement was delivered to a Western news agency along with a photograph showing Turner and Steen lounging on a mattress with broad smiles on their faces. Each was holding a cigarette.

Mrs. Turner, a Lebanese of Palestinian origin, said in a telephone interview: "They look OK. The smile on their faces, the cigarettes, the way they are sitting - all this indicates they are fine."

Steen, who was reported ill in previous statements, looked healthy and clean-shaven. Turner wore his usual bushy beard.

Mrs. Turner delivered the couple's first child, a baby girl, six months after her husband's abduction. She said she is now hopeful that Joanna soon will be able to see her father.

"It's a positive statement. It looks like they've relaxed their conditions. This makes one be more, maybe a little more optimistic," Mrs. Turner added.

Polhill's wife, Feryal, also Lebanese, said in a separate telephone interview: "They sort of have no more conditions except that of the U.S. administration. We can't say anything concrete has happened but it's a step towards a solution."