US embassy cable - 85STATE184826

BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON TWA HIJACKING MONDAY, JUNE 17, 1985,

Identifier: 85STATE184826
Wikileaks: View 85STATE184826 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Secretary of State
Created: 1985-06-17 22:13:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: OPRC PTER LE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 172213Z JUN 85
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY AMMAN IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE
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AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM IMMEDIATE
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AMEMBASSY KUWAIT IMMEDIATE
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AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
UNCLAS STATE 184826 
 
FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 
 
INFORM CONSULS, PASS PAO'S, CENTCOM FOR POLAD LOWRIE 
 
E.O. 12356:  N/A 
TAGS:        OPRC, PTER, LE 
SUBJECT:     BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON TWA HIJACKING 
             MONDAY, JUNE 17, 1985, 
 
1.  FOLLOWING IS THE TEXT OF BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON TWA 
HIJACKING ON JUNE 17 GIVEN BY ROBERT OAKLEY: 

BEGIN TEXT: 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL:  I'M GOING TO HAVE TO BE 
VERY, VERY BRIEF BECAUSE WE HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO, 
AND I'VE GOT SOME OTHER MEETINGS TO GO TO.  AND, 
OBVIOUSLY, OUR PRIMARY OBJECTIVE IS TO DO EVERYTHING WE 
CAN TO GET THESE PEOPLE LOOSE, WHICH ALSO WILL HAVE 
SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT HOW MUCH I CAN RESPOND TO YOUR 
QUESTIONS. 

LET ME OPEN BY REPEATING THE STATEMENT WHICH YOU ALL HAVE 
HEARD FREQUENTLY, INCLUDING FROM LARRY SPEAKES THIS 
MORNING: 

WE DO NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS TO TERRORISTS.  WE DO NOT ASK 
OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO DO SO -- ISRAEL, KUWAIT, WHOEVER 
THEY MAY BE.  WE ARE CONTINUING OUR INTENSIVE EFFORTS TO 

SECURE THE RELEASE OF ALL THE PASSENGERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN 
LAST FRIDAY'S HIJACKING.  WE'RE GRATEFUL TO THE 
GOVERNMENT OF ALGERIA FOR THEIR EXTENSIVE EFFORTS WHICH 
HAVE RESULTED IN THE RELEASE OF 87 OF THE HOSTAGES. 

DISCUSSIONS WERE HELD YESTERDAY AND RESUMED THIS MORNING 
BETWEEN THE HIJACKERS AND LEBANESE JUSTICE MINISTER NABIH 
BERRI, WHO IS ALSO THE HEAD OF THE SHI'A AMAL GROUP. 
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR BUD MCFARLANE HAS BEEN IN 
TELEPHONE CONTACT WITH MINISTER BERRI.  OUR AMBASSADOR TO 
BEIRUT, REG BARTHOLOMEW, HAS ALSO BEEN IN FREQUENT TOUCH 
WITH MINISTER BARRI, AND OTHER RESPONSIBLE OFFICIALS OF 
THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT AND VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS THAT 
HAVE INFLUENCE. 
 
THE PURPOSE OF THESE CONTACTS IS TO OBTAIN THE IMMEDIATE 
RELEASE OF ALL THE REMAINING PRISONERS; THOSE WHO WERE 
TAKEN OFF THE PLANE EARLIER, THOSE WHO APPEAR TO HAVE 
BEEN TAKEN OFF THE PLANE LAST NIGHT, ALL THE REMAINING 
PRISONERS WHO HAVEN'T ALREADY BEEN RELEASED WHO WERE ON 
THAT PLANE WHEN IT WAS HIJACKED. 

WE'VE ALSO BEEN IN CONTACT WITH A VARIETY OF OTHER 
GOVERNMENTS AND PARTIES TO ENLIST THEIR ASSISTANCE IN 
SECURING THE SAFE RELEASE OF ALL THE HOSTAGES.  WE HOPE 
THIS TRAGIC SITUATION WILL BE RESOLVED AS SOON AS 
POSSIBLE BY THE RELEASE OF THE HOSTAGES.  ITS 
CONTINUATION DOES NO ONE ANY GOOD.  THE INNOCENT VICTIMS 
OF THIS ACT OF TERRORISM ARE SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY AS ARE 
THEIR FAMILIES. 

THE HIJACKERS ARE NOT GETTING SYMPATHY FOR THEIR 
DEMANDS.  INDEED, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE HIJACKING, AND 
THE WAY IN WHICH THEY HAVE LINKED THE RELEASE OF THE 
FORMER ANSAR PRISONERS, MAY DELAY THE PREVIOUSLY PLANNED 
RELEASE OF THESE PRISONERS, AS STATED BY ISRAEL. 

WELL, THAT'S MY STATEMENT.  I'LL BE HAPPY TO TRY TO 
ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS. 

Q.  HOW MANY HOSTAGES ARE THERE NOW, INCLUDING THE CREW, 
AND DO YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  WE DO NOT KNOW PRECISELY 
WHERE THEY ARE.  I'LL HAVE TO GET YOU THE PRECISE FIGURE 
ON THE NUMBER OF HOSTAGES. 

Q.  YOU'VE MENTIONED ONE THING -- THE PRISONERS THAT WERE 
TAKEN OFF THE PLANE FRIDAY, AND THOSE, YOU SAID, APPEAR 
TO HAVE BEEN TAKEN OFF TODAY. 
DO WE NOT KNOW FOR SURE THAT THEY ARE IN NABIH BERRI'S -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  WE THINK THAT THEY HAVE 
BEEN TAKEN OFF THE PLANE.  WE HAVE NO INDEPE DENT 
CONFIRMATION, BUT WE BELIEVE THAT IS TRUE.  THERE'S BEEN 
NO ACTIVITY ON BOARD THE PLANE, AND WE THINK THEY'RE 
OFF.  WE CAN'T SAY FOR SURE THAT THEY'RE ALL OFF.  I'LL 
JUST SAY IT'S A QUESTION OF NOT HAVING INDEPENDENT 
CONFIRMATION.  WE BELIEVE THEY'RE OFF. 

Q.  WHAT DOES BERRI TELL YOU ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE THEY'RE 
SUPPOSED TO BE UNDER HIS CONTROL, ARE THEY NOT? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  BARRY SAYS THEY'RE UNDER 
HIS CONTROL. 

Q.  IF THEY ARE, HOW DOES THIS COMPLICATE THINGS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  EXCUSE ME? 

Q.  IF THEY ARE OFF THE PLANE, IF ALL THE PRISONERS OR 
ALL THE HOSTAGES ARE OFF THE PLANE, FROM OUR POINT OF 
VIEW, HOW DOES THIS COMPLICATE THINGS OR DOES IT 
COMPLICATE THINGS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THE QUESTION IS NOT SO 
MUCH WHERE THEY ARE.  THE QUESTION IS, ARE THEY GOING TO 
BE RELEASED?  IF BERRI HAS CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR 
THEM, THIS IS FINE.  IT'S NICE TO SEE SOMEONE IN A 
POSITION OF RESPONSIBILITY STEP FORWARD AND ACCEPT IT. 

OUR POSITION IS, THAT BEING THE CASE THE PRISONERS -- THE 
HOSTAGES SHOULD BE RELEASED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; NOT 
BEING HELD UP FOR SOME SORT OF NEGOTIATION, CONCESSIONS, 
TRADE OR HAGGLING. 

Q.  IS IT YOUR INFORMATION THAT BERRI KNEW ABOUT THIS 
OPERATION BEFORE IT STARTED, OR WAS HE PART OF THE 
PLANNING OF IT? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THOSE OF WHO HAVE BEEN 
FOLLOWING THIS THING, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE 
BEEN OUT TO BEIRUT AT ONE TIME OR OTHER, KNOW JUST HOW 
DIFFICULT IT IS TO SAY WHO KNEW WHAT, WHEN, I JUST CAN'T 
 
ANSWER THAT QUESTION. 

Q.  DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ONES WHO WERE TAKEN OFF THE 
PLANE IN ITS SECOND STOP IN BEIRUT AND THOSE WHO APPEAR 
TO HAVE BEEN TAKEN OFF LAST NIGHT ARE NOW TOGETHER?  DO 
YOU HAVE ANY INDICATION FROM BERRI THAT THEY'VE BEEN 
REUNITED? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  WE DON'T KNOW EXCEPT 
BERRI'S STATEMENT, THAT HE IS ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR 
ALL OF THEM.  WHETHER THEY'RE ALL PHYSICALLY TOGETHER OR 
NOT, I COULDN'T TELL YOU. 

Q.  WHAT ABOUT THE ONES THAT WERE THERE PREVIOUSLY, THE 
NINE OR - 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THERE'S NO REASON TO 
BELIEVE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN PUT TOGETHER WITH THE PEOPLE 
WHO WERE ON THE TWA FLIGHT.  SO FAR THE - THERE HAS BEEN 
NO MENTION OF THE DAWA PRISONERS IN KUWAIT IN CONNECTION 
WITH THE PEOPLE WHO WERE ON THE TWA FLIGHT. 

Q.  WHEN THE ISRAELIS TRANSFERRED THOSE DETAINEES, THE 
LEBANESE SHI'ITES, TO ISRAEL, WE INFORMED THEM THAT THEY 
WERE IN VIOLATION, I THINK, OF INTERNATIONAL LAW -- I 
THINK THE FOURTH GENEVA PROTOCOL.  WHAT WOULD BE SO WRONG 
WITH JUST REMINDING THEM AGAIN THAT THEY ARE HOLDING 
THOSE DETAINEES IN VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  OUR POSITION HAS NOT 
CHANGED.  THAT THEY WERE TRANSFERRED FROM ISRAEL TO 
LEBANON.  IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WE OPPOSED AS 
INCONSISTENT WITH THE FOURTH GENEVA CONVENTION.  BUT WE 
DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THERE IS ANY REASON TO LINK THESE TWO 
QUESTIONS.  INDEED, WE OPPOSE SUCH LINKAGE.  AND, AS I'VE 
SAID, THE PRACTICAL EFFECT IS GOING TO BE, WE THINK, TO 
DELAY THE RELEASE WHICH THE ISRAELIS HAD PREVIOUSLY 
PLANNED. 

Q.  IF WE WON'T ASK THE ISRAELIS TO LET THEM GO, AND THE 
ISRAELIS WON'T LET THEM GO UNTIL WE ASK THEM TO DO IT, 
DON'T THE HOSTAGES SUFFER IN THE MEANTIME WHILE WE TRY 
AND WORK OUT A FACE-SAVING COMPROMISE BETWEEN THESE TWO 
POSITIONS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  WELL, OUR POSITION, AS I 
SAID, IS QUITE CLEAR AND WE'RE NOT CHANGING IT. 

Q.  TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE, ARE THE PEOPLE -- 

Q.  HAD WE KNOWN BEFORE THE HIJACKING THAT THE ISRAELIS 
PLANNED TO RELEASE THESE SHI'ITE PRISONERS? 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THE ISRAELIS HAVE 
CONSISTENTLY SAID THAT THEY INTENDED TO RELEASE THESE 
FORMER PRISONERS OF THE ANSAR CAMP OVER TIME, AS THE 
SECURITY SITUATION IN SOUTHERN LEBANON IMPROVES. 

Q.  TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE, ARE ALL THE 
REMAINING HOSTAGES AMERICAN?  AMAL WAS SAYING THERE 
WERE FOUR GREEK CITIZENS WITH THEM.  DO YOU HAVE ANY 
IDEA ON THE NATIONALITY BREAKDOWN? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I'LL HAVE TO GET THAT 
FOR YOU.  WE DO HAVE THAT INFORMATION SOMEWHERE AND WE 
CAN GET IT. 

Q.  IN THE COURSE OF YOUR CONVERSATIONS WITH BERRI, 
DOES HE SAY, DOES HE REPEAT THE DEMANDS OF THE 
HIJACKERS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  WE'RE NOT NEGOTIATING 
WITH BERRI.  I BELIEVE THAT HE HAS POINTED OUT THE 
DEMANDS OF THE HIJACKERS, AT LEAST; WHETHER HE HAS 
ENDORSED THEM OR NOT, I'M NOT QUITE SURE.  BUT OUR 
POSITION ON THAT REMAINS VERY CLEAR. 

Q.  WELL IF I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE SAYING THAT IF 
BERRI HAS CONTROL OF THESE PEOPLE, THEN IT WOULD BE 
WITHIN HIS POWER TO RELEASE THEM, RIGHT? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  BERRI - 

Q.  SO IF HE DOES NOT RELEASE THEM, HE IS MAKING 
DEMANDS UPON THE UNITED STATES, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. 
COULD YOU CITE WHAT THOSE DEMANDS ARE? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THE ONLY DEMANDS THAT 
HAVE BEEN MADE, SO FAR AS I KNOW, ARE FOR THE RELEASE 
OF THE FORMER ANSAR PRISONERS, AND OUR ANSWER IS VERY 
CLEAR, "WE DON'T GIVE IN TO TERRORIST DEMANDS." 
ON THE OTHER HAND, AS HAS BEEN POINTED OUT, THERE WAS A 
TIMETABLE FOR THEIR RELEASE.  UNFORTUNATELY, THESE TWO 
THINGS HAVE BEEN PUT TOGETHER AND THEY SHOULDN'T BE PUT 
TOGETHER.  THE PRISONERS SHOULD BE RELEASED AT ONCE. 

Q.  TO CLARIFY THAT, ARE YOU SAYING THAT BERRI 
SPECIFICALLY HAS ASKED FOR THE RELEASE OF THE 766 
HIMSELF? 
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THAT I'LL HAVE TO 
CHECK. 

Q.  HAVE YOU ASKED BERRI -- SINCE HE ASSUMES 
RESPONSIBILITY -- HAVE YOU ASKED HIM SPECIFICALLY TO 
PLEASE GET THE PRISONERS RELEASED? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THAT WAS THE THRUST OF 
THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN MCFARLANE AND BERRI. 

Q.  AND WHAT DID BERRI REPLY TO THAT, SINCE HE SAYS HE 
HAS RESPONSIBILITY? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I CAN'T GET INTO THE 
DETAILS OF THE CONVERSATION, BUT THAT INDEED OBVIOUSLY 
THEY HAVE NOT YET BEEN RELEASED. 

Q.  IS IT CLEAR TO YOU THROUGH TALKS WITH MR. BERRI 
THAT HE IS TALKING TO YOU IN HIS CAPACITY AS A LEADER 
OF AMAL, OR IN HIS CAPACITY AS A MEMBER OF THE LEBANESE 
GOVERNMENT? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  SO FAR AS I KNOW, HE 
HASN'T MADE THE DISTINCTION.  FORTUNATELY, IN TERMS OF 
ACCEPTING SOME RESPONSIBILITY, HE HAS BOTH POSITIONS, 
SO HE IS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GOVERNMENT AS WELL AS 
A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SHI'A COMMUNITY.  AND LET ME 
REMIND YOU, THE SHI'A 
A COMMUNITY HAS SUFFERED ENORMOUSLY OVER MANY YEARS OF 
VIOLENCE AND CONFLICT AND DEPRIVATION. 

THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAS ALWAYS SUPPORTED 
POLITICAL RECONCILIATION AND REFORM AMONG THE LEBANESE 
COMMUNITIES, WHICH WOULD PROVIDE ALL OF THEM WITH 
EQUITABLE POLITICAL DISTRIBUTION.  SO NABIH BERRI, AS A 
RESPONSIBLE  LEADER OF THE SHI'A COMMUNITY, HAS OUR 
APPRECIATION.  NABIH BERRI, AS SOMEONE WHO HAS ACCEPTED 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WELL-BEING OF THE PRISONERS, HAS 
DONE SOMETHING WE CONSIDER TO BE POSITIVE.  BUT NOW WE 
CALL UPON HIM, AS WE HAVE, TO BRING ABOUT THEIR RELEASE. 

Q.  THE SITUATION, IN LIGHT OF YOUR ANSWERS IN THE LAST 
FEW QUESTIONS, SEEM TO HAVE CHANGED -- IT'S NO LONGER A 
HIJACKING; IT IS A SITUATION IN WHICH A LEBANESE 
GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL IS CLAIMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE 
POSSESSION OR THE CARE-TAKING OF AMERICAN HOSTAGES. 
HAS THIS CHANGED THE SITUATION IN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'S 
VIEW?YOU'RE NOW DEALING WITH ANOTHER GOVERNMENT THAT 
HAS CONTROL OF AMERICAN HOSTAGES.  IS THIS IN ANY WAY 
SIMILAR TO THE GOVERNMENT-TO"GOVERNMENT SITUATION THAT 
OCCURRED IN IRAN? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THIS GETS BACK TO THE 
PREVIOUS QUESTION, WHICH I COULDN'T ANSWER, IS THE WAY 
IN WHICH NABIH BERRI IS SPEAKING AS A LEADER OF THE 
SHI'A COMMUNITY OR AS A MEMBER OF THE LEBANESE 
GOVERNMENT?  AND IT'S A VERY INTERESTING SITUATION.  I 
CAN'T SPEAK TO WHAT DEGREE HE'S SPEAKING AS ONE; TO 
WHAT DEGREE HE'S SPEAKING AS ANOTHER.  BUT YOU ALL 
UNDERSTAND THE VERY LIMITED CONTROL WHICH THE LEBANESE 
GOVERNMENT, AS AN INSTITUTION, HAS OVER WEST BEIRUT. 

Q.  DO YOU KNOW WHETHER BERRI ACTUALLY DOES HAVE 
CONTROL OVER THE HOSTAGES? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  NO. 

Q.  IN LIGHT OF THE DEVELOPMENTS OF THE PAST 24 HOURS, 
WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS "MORE OPTIMISTIC" OR 
"LESS OPTIMISTIC" ABOUT GETTING THESE HOSTAGES SAFELY 
RELEASED? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I WOULD DESCRIBE 
MYSELF AS NEITHER.  I HAVEN'T BEEN MORE OR LESS.  AND 
ALL WE CAN DO IS WORK AT IT WITHOUT MAKING ANY VALUE 
JUDGMENTS UNTIL THEY'RE RELEASED.  THEN -- 

Q.  THIS CHANGE MEANS NOTHING IN TERMS OF IT BEING MORE 
LIKELY THAT THESE PEOPLE WILL BE RELEASED SAFELY? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  ONE CAN DEDUCE A WHOLE 
HOST OF ARGUMENTS POINTING BOTH WAYS, PLUSES AND 
MINUSES, IF YOU WILL.  YOU MIGHT SAY THAT THEY ARE 
SAFER AT THE MOMENT. ON THE OTHER HAND, THAT DOES NOT 
NECESSARILY MEANS THAT THEIR RELEASE IS MORE LIKELY. 

Q.  WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE IN PRINCIPLE BETWEEN THE 
ISRAELI RELEASE OF A BUNCH OF CONVICTED TERRORISTS AND 
GANGSTERS A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO AND THIS OPERATION? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THAT'S SOMETHING 
YOU'LL HAVE TO ASK THE ISRAELIS, NOT ME. 

Q.  SIR, CAN I GO BACK TO MY QUESTION ABOUT MR. BERRI'S 
CONTROL FOR A MOMENT? 
 
Q.  SIR, COULD YOU TELL ME IF THE UNITED STATES OPPOSES 
HAVING ISRAEL RELEASE THESE PRISONERS WHILE AMERICAN 
HOSTAGES ARE STILL BEING HELD? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  OUR POSITION, I THINK, 
IS VERY CLEAR.  WE DO NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS TO 
TERRORISTS.  WE DO NOT ENCOURAGE OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO 
DO SO.  THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT PREVIOUSLY HAD A PLAN 
FOR THE RELEASE OF THE TERRORIST -- NOT OF THE 
TERRORISTS, BUT OF THE PEOPLE FROM THE FORMER ANSAR 
CAMP. 

Q.  DOES -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  WHAT IT DOES, WE WILL 
SEE. 

Q.  DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE UNITED STATES DOES OPPOSE 
HAVING ISRAEL RELEASE THESE PRISONERS WHILE THE 
HOSTAGES ARE -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  NO.  I DIDN'T SAY 
THAT.  I JUST REPEATED OUR POSITION. 

Q.  COULD YOU SAY IF THE UNITED STATES DOES OPPOSE IT, 
SIR? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  OUR POSITION IS VERY 
CLEAR.  WE DO NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS WITH TERRORISTS.  WE 
DON'T ENCOURAGE OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO DO SO. 

Q.  BUT IF THE ISRAELIS WERE INDEPENDENTLY TO DECIDE 
NOW TO RELEASE THOSE HOSTAGES, WOULD YOU OPPOSE THAT? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  IF THEY WERE TO 
INDEPENDENTLY DECIDE TO DO SO IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR 
PLAN PREVIOUSLY, IT WOULD PRODUCE PERHAPS A DIFFERENT 
SITUATION, IF IT WERE NOT LINKED TO THE QUESTION OF THE 
TERRORISTS.  BUT WE BELIEVE THAT THE HIJACKERS SHOULD 
DROP THEIR DEMANDS FOR -- WHICH INCLUDE THE LINKAGE 
HERE. 

Q.  HAVE WE TOLD BERRI THAT THE PRACTICAL EFFECT OF THE 
HOSTAGE SITUATION IS TO DELAY THE RETURN OF THE 
PRISONERS IN ISRAEL?  DID WE ACTUALLY TELL HIM THAT? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  IF YOU LISTENED TO THE 
(SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL) BACKGROUNDER THIS 
MORNING, HE TALKS ABOUT THAT.  HE SAYS THAT IF THE 
HOSTAGE SITUATION WERE TO BE CLEARED UP, IT MIGHT BE 
POSSIBLE FOR THE ISRAELIS TO PROCEED ON THEIR 
PREVIOUSLY PLANNED RELEASE OF THE LEBANESE PRISONERS. 

Q.  BUT DID WE TELL BERRI THIS? 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  (SENIOR ADMINISTRATION 
OFFICIAL) WAS TALKING ABOUT MCFARLANE'S CONVERSATION 
WITH BERRI. 

Q.  YOU, A FEW MINUTES AGO, TALKED ABOUT THE PLUSES AND 
MINUSES OF THE NEW SITUATION.  DOESN'T THE FACT THAT 
THEY'RE OFF THE PLANE AND SOME PLACE THAT WE DON'T KNOW 
WHERE THEY ARE, MEAN THAT THEY COULD BE SUSTAINED FOR A 
LONGER PERIOD OF TIME, SEPARATED PERHAPS -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  MY COMMENT, I SAID IN 
SOME WAYS THEY MAY BE SAFER, IN OTHER WAYS IT DOES NOT 
NECESSARILY MEAN THAT THEIR RELEASE IS MORE IMMINENT. 
BUT YOU COULD TURN IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND AND SAY THAT 
NABIH BERRI AS A RESPONSIBLE LEADER OF THE SHI'A 
COMMUNITY AS WELL AS A MINISTER HAS ACCEPTED 
RESPONSIBILITY.  THEREFORE, IF HE IS WILLING TO 
EXERCISE THAT RESPONSIBILITY, THIS COULD LEAD TO THEIR 
EARLY RELEASE RATHER THAN DEALING WITH A BUNCH OF 
HIJACKERS WHO HAVE NO SUCH PERSON IN A POSITION OF 
RESPONSIBILITY.  THAT'S WHY I SAID YOU GOT PLUSES AND 
MINUSES. 

Q.  FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AS A COUNTER-TERRORIST 
OFFICIAL -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I DON'T WANT TO GET IN 
ANY SORT OF VALUE JUDGMENTS. 

Q.  WELL, WHAT IS EFFECTIVELY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 
BERRI HOLDING AMERICAN PASSENGERS AS HOSTAGES TO 
CERTAIN POLITICAL DEMANDS AND THE ORIGINAL HIJACKERS 
HOLDING THE AMERICAN PASSENGERS HOSTAGE -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  OUR POSITION -- 

Q.  -- TO THE SAME DEMAND? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  MARVIN, OUR POSITION 
IS EXACTLY THE SAME.  WE WANT THEM RELEASED AT ONCE, NO 
CONDITIONS ASKED. 

Q.  YOU ARE AT THE SAME TIME REFERRING TO BERRI AS A 
RESPONSIBLE SHI'ITE LEADER. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  YES. 

 
Q.  HOW RESPONSIBLE IS HE IF HE IS IN FACT, IN EFFECT, 
 PERFORMING THE SAME FUNCTION AS THE ORIGINAL HIJACKERS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  MARVIN, THAT'S WHY WE 
HAVE SAID, IN OUR VIEW RESPONSIBILITY IS NOT MERELY TO 
KEEP THEM SAFE BUT TO RELEASE THEM AT ONCE. 
Q.  AS A FOLLOW-UP TO THE "- 

Q.  THEN DOES THE PRESIDENT'S THREAT TO FREE THE 
HOSTAGES FOR THE UNSAFETY OF THOSE HOLDING THEM STILL 
HOLD? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THAT'S A SUBJECT THAT 
I REALLY CAN'T COMMENT ON, GIVEN THE SENSITIVITY OF THE 
SITUATION WE'RE IN. 

Q.  HAVE YOU MADE CLEAR TO MR. BERRI THAT WE WANT ALL 
OF THE HOSTAGES RELEASED, AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WITHOUT 
DISTINCTION BETWEEN OFFICIALS, NON-OFFICIALS, MILITARY, 
NON-MILITARY, JEW, NON-JEW? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  YES. 

Q.  AND SO THAT INCLUDES THE SIX OR EIGHT THAT WERE 
TAKEN OFF THE PLANE - 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  INDEED. 

Q.  - FRIDAY NIGHT.  IT DOES NOT - 

Q.  MR. -- 

Q.  BUT JUST TO UNDERSTAND YOU CORRECTLY, IT DOES NOT 
NECESSARILY INCLUDE THE SEVEN AMERICANS WHO ARE -- 
STILL REMAIN HOSTAGE IN SOME OTHER PART OF LEBANON? 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  BERRI HAS CLAIMED NO 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEM.  WE HAVE BEEN IN TOUCH WITH 
BERRI, WITH ALL OF THE RESPONSIBLE OR INFLUENTIAL, IF 
YOU WANT TO PUT IT THAT WAY, LEADERS IN LEBANON ON THE 
SUBJECT OF THE OTHER HOSTAGES OVER A LONG PERIOD OF 
TIME.  BUT THAT IS SEPARATE FROM THIS, ALTHOUGH HE IS 
ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT WE'VE TALKED TO ABOUT THIS ABOUT 
THE OTHER PROBLEM. 

Q.  WHAT ROLE SYRIA PLAYS SINCE THEY ARE KNOWN FOR 
THEIR GOOD RELATIONS WITH NABIH BERRI? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I DON'T WANT TO 
COMMENT ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SYRIA AND NABIH 
BERRI -- 

Q.  HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO -- 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  -- EXCEPT THAT WE 
THINK, REFERRING TO PRESIDENT ASSAD'S STATEMENT, PUBLIC 
STATEMENT OF LAST WEEK, HE HAS TALKED ABOUT HIS VIEWS 
ON THE HOSTAGES, ON THE WHOLE IDEA OF HOSTAGE-TAKING 
AND KIDNAPPING AND TERRORISM, WHERE HE SAYS HE OPPOSES 
IT. 

MR. DJEREJIAN:  WE'RE GOING TO TAKE TWO MORE QUESTIONS. 

Q.  HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO PRECISELY DEFINE THE 
AFFILIATION OF THE HIJACKERS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  NO. 
 
Q.  JUST A MINOR CLARIFICATION:  DOES THE UNITED STATES 
HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THAT BERRI HAS INFLUENCE OVER 
THE SIX TO TEN PEOPLE THAT WERE INITIALLY REMOVED OFF 
THE PLANE? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  BERRI HAS CLAIMED 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL OF THEM.  THEREFORE, WE DO 
BELIEVE THAT BERRI HAS INFLUENCE.  CONTROL, INFLUENCE. 
THE DEGREE OF CONTROL, THE DEGREE OF INFLUENCE, IS 
SOMETHING THAT'S VERY HARD TO SAY. 

Q.  HOW MUCH BERRI HAS INFLUENCE ON THE HIJACKERS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  EXCUSE ME? 

Q.  HOW MUCH BERRI HAS INFLUENCE ON THE HIJACKERS? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  THAT'S WHAT I SAID. 
HOW MUCH IS HARD TO TELL. 

END TEXT. 
 
SHULTZ 

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