The release of an Indian hostage prompted a flurry of reports Friday about a secret U.S.-Iran deal to free more captives and about the imminent release of a British hostage.
But Secretary of State George Shultz has denied reports that Washington is negotiating with Iran to release hostages and said that "anyone who tries to cut across our policies should butt out."Lebanese kidnappers warned on Thursday that two American hostages may be in danger if U.N. troops are sent to Lebanon to oversee presidential elections.
Sixteen foreigners, including nine Americans, are missing in Lebanon. Most are believed held by Shiite Moslem extremists backed by Iran.
On Monday, the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine freed Indian hostage Mithileshwar Singh after 20 months of captivity. Singh, a professor of finance at Beirut University College, is a legal resident of the United States.
A team of U.S. experts interviewing Singh in Wiesbaden, West Germany, has gleaned information about the conditions of other Americans held in Lebanon, U.S. officials said.
In Jerusalem, the new English-language weekly The Nation reported Friday the United States struck a deal with Iran to free U.S. hostages in Lebanon, including the supply of arms and spare parts to Tehran through South Korea.
The unattributed report said the U.S. government agreed to pay $7 million in ransom to the militants holding the hostages but refused the group's demands for immunity from prosecution.
The report said the U.S. refusal to guarantee immunity angered the kidnappers and prompted them to release Singh instead of Alann Steen, a U.S. citizen whose release had been expected.
In addition to Steen, 49, of Boston, the group holds Jesse Turner, 41, a native of Boise, Idaho; and Robert Polhill, 54, of New York City. All four taught at Beirut University College.
Shultz said at the United Nations on Thursday that anyone who claims to be a U.S. envoy to secret U.S-Iran negotiations is lying.
His remarks were reinforced by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who denied at a separate news conference Thursday that the United States and Iran are negotiating on hostages or any other subjects.
"There is not going to be any deal," Shultz said. "The hostages should be released."
Shultz responded to questions about statements in Paris by former President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr of Iran. Bani-Sadr said an agent of Vice President George Bush, Richard Lawless, negotiated Singh's release.
The conservative daily Al-Anwar, based in Christian east Beirut, reported Friday that Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite, missing in Lebanon for more than 20 months, will be freed in 72 hours.
The newspaper cited unidentified informed sources for its report. The newspaper has no record of authoritative reports on the hostage issue, and there was no way to confirm the report.
Waite disappeared Jan. 20, 1987, after leaving his west Beirut hotel for a rendezvous with Islamic Jihad, or Holy War, which holds American hostages Terry Anderson, 40, and Thomas Sutherland, 56.
Anderson, of Lorain, Ohio, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, is the longest-held captive. He was kidnapped March 16, 1985.
On Thursday, the Revolutionary Justice Organization, which claims to hold Joseph James Cicippio of Norristown, Pa. and Edward Austin Tracy, of Burlington, Vt., said the hostages may be in danger if U.N. troops are sent to Lebanon.
"We shall use all the cards to thwart these conspiracies, including the card of the safety of the hostages," said a statement typewritten in Arabic and delivered to the independent newspaper An-Nahar.