Iranian Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani said Friday his country would use its influence to help free nine American hostages in Lebanon if the United States would do the same for Iranian hostages there.
"If you are interested in having your people held hostage in Lebanon released, then tell the Phalangists to release our people who have been in their hands for years, and of whom we do not have any news," official Tehran radio quoted Rafsanjani as saying.Speaking at a Friday prayer sermon, Rafsanjani, also the army's commander in chief, said if the United States helped free Iranian hostages "we will also suggest to our well-wishers and friends in Lebanon to release any hostages they may have."
Iranian officials have made similar statements in the past.
Three Iranians, Ahmad Motevaselian, Hussein Musavi and Kazem Akhavan, were kidnapped by right-wing Christian Phalangist gunmen in northern Lebanon in 1982. Their Lebanese driver, who also had an Iranian passport, disappeared with them. They are widely believed to be dead.
The Rev. John Brown, Anglican bishop for the Persian Gulf region, went to Lebanon in July hoping to track down the Iranian hostages. He went at the request of the archbishop of Canterbury whose special envoy, Terry Waite, was kidnapped in January 1987.
The Tehran radio broadcast was monitored in Nicosia.
In Beirut, a magazine reported Friday that British hostages held in Lebanon will be freed soon because Britain and Iran have restored ties.
The weekly Ash-Shiraa attributed its report to unidentified informed sources. "The British hostages held in Lebanon will be freed soon now that Britain and Iran have resumed full diplomatic relations," it said.
The report could not be independently confirmed. Ash-Shiraa gained international fame when it broke the story of secret U.S. arms sales to Iran.