A day after claiming it freed and sent two French girls home from 13 months of captivity, an extremist Palestinian faction said Tuesday it could not "set a specific date" for their arrival in France.
In Paris, the Foreign Ministry said it was expecting the arrival of the two girls but would not elaborate.A spokesman for Fatah-Revolutionary Council announced in Lebanon Monday that Marie-Laure Betille, 7, and her 6-year-old sister, Virginie, who had been abducted with their mother and five Belgians, had been released and were on their way to Paris in an airplane.
But the spokesman, Walid Khaled, said Tuesday: "I cannot set a specific date for their arrival in Paris or say anything more than what has been mentioned in the statement I have just released."
In the statement, Khaled said the group's leader, terrorist mastermind Abu Nidal, had met the girls and approved security arrangements for their transportation to Paris. He did not say when the meeting occurred.
Earlier Tuesday, another man who answered the phone at the group's information office maintained: "The two sisters are on their way to Paris. Arrival time depends on weather conditions over the Mediterranean."
The man did not elaborate and would not identify himself.
Several Mediterranean countries have been struck since Monday by a winter storm.
Khaled announced on Nov. 8, 1987, that his group had seized eight French and Belgian nationals aboard their French-registered yacht, the Silko, off the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip. The Fatah-Revolutionary Council accused them of spying for Israel. Israel denied it.
Some news reports have said the captives were being held in south Lebanon, and others said they were in Libya.
The girls' mother, Jacqueline Valente, gave birth to a girl in captivity and is due to deliver again in January, Khaled said. Since her separation from her husband, Pierre Betille, Valente has been living with Fernand Houtekins, one of the five Belgian captives.
The other four captives are Houtekins' elder brother, Emmanuel, Emmanuel's wife, Godelieve, and the couple's two children, Laurent, 17, and Valerie, 16.
Not counting the Silko captives, 15 foreigners, including nine Americans, are missing and believed held hostage in Lebanon. The longest held is Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of The Assoiciated Press. He was abducted March 16, 1985.
Abu Nidal, whose real name is Sabri Banna, formed Fatah-Revolutionary Council in 1976 after splitting from the Palestine Liberation Organization. He is wanted for masterminding hijackings, bombings and assassinations.