A U.S. State Department official said Wednesday there was no sign any of the nine Americans held hostage in Lebanon would be freed soon.
A State Department team today began questioning Mithileshwar Singh, an Indian who was freed from captivity in Lebanon on Monday, in hopes of learning the fate of the Americans, the Washington official added.The official told reporters at the U.S. Air Force hospital in Wiesbaden Wednesday afternoon: "One wants to be encouraged that they (the hostages) will be released, but we really don't know."
Asked about the American hostages, he said: "There are no indications that others are coming out."
The official, who is an expert on hostage issues, requested strict anonymity, although he was speaking at a news conference before several dozen journalists. Television crews were ordered not to film his remarks, and the lights were lowered.
Earlier Wednesday, doctors said Singh was "in good spirits" but would stay in West Germany for another three days of medical tests.
Meanwhile, a former president of Iran said an aide to Vice President George Bush negotiated this week's release of a hostage held in Lebanon and that Iran received arms - possibly in a deal to free the captive.
A campaign spokeswoman for Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, termed the remarks by Abolhassan Bani-Sadr "absolutely false."
Bani-Sadr said Tuesday he did not know if the shipment of weapons was related to the release Monday of Mithileshwar Singh, a 60-year-old Indian professor and legal U.S. resident.
"There has been a delivery of arms to Iran," he said. "Does that have something to do with the release? I don't know." He gave no details of the purported arms transfer.
Bush campaign spokeswoman Alixe Glen said in Washington: "Those assertions are absolutely false."
Singh's release leaves 16 foreigners missing in Lebanon and believed held by Moslem extremists. Held longest is Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, who was abducted March 16, 1985.
Armed men dressed as policemen took Singh hostage Jan. 24, 1987, on the Beirut University College campus in Moslem west Beirut, along with American educators Alann Steen, Robert Polhill and Jesse Turner.
A group calling itself Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility, and said it freed Singh as a goodwill gesture. Nearly all the foreign hostages in Lebanon are believed held by Shiite Moslem groups loyal to Iran.