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News In Brief

September 19, 1985



Concord, N.H.

The Rev. Benjamin Weir, a United States missionary held hostage in Lebanon nearly 500 days, has been released and President Reagan said yesterday he would not be satisfied until the six other American captives are freed. ``I talked with Rev. Weir from Air Force One this morning but I will not be satisfied until all the hostages, the other six, are released,'' Mr. Reagan said here, confirming an announcement by the Presbyterian Church USA that the minister had been freed.

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The Rev. Mr. Weir had been missing since May, 8, 1984, when he was abducted by gunmen outside his west Beirut home. A group calling itself Islamic Jihad (Holy War) claimed responsibility for kidnapping him, six other Americans, and several other foreigners.

A spokeswoman in New York for the Presbyterian Church said Mr. Weir was in good health and would appear at a news conference today in Washington.

Vice-President George Bush is to meet families of the six remaining hostages in Washington tomorrow.

The Rev. Weir was one of seven Americans and six other foreigners held hostage in Lebanon, and US embassy officials in Beirut had been unusually close-mouthed about efforts to free the captives.

Muslim sources said that Syria was trying to persuade Lebanese Muslim groups to free the Americans, four Frenchman, and a Briton seized since March 1984. Italian businessman Alberto Molinari disappeared last week.

The six other missing Americans are journalist Terry Anderson of the Associated Press; William Buckley, political officer of the US embassy in Beirut; David Jacobsen, director of the American University hospital; the Rev. Lawrence Jenco of Catholic Relief; Peter Kilburn, an American University librarian; and Thomas Sutherland, dean of agriculture at the American University in Beirut.

Their captors had been demanding that Kuwait free comrades jailed for bombings directed against Western targets in that oil-rich nation.

Higher arms outlays OK'd by Japanese

The Japanese government, under pressure from the US to strengthen its defenses, approved a controversial defense plan Wednesday that is likely to exceed a long-observed 1 percent ceiling on military spending. The $76.5 billion plan for 1986-1990 calls for an annual increase of 7.9 percent in defense spending, compared with growth in the 6 percent range over the past three years. The new military budget amounts to roughly 1.04 percent of current projections for Japan's gross national product for the five-year period.

Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe said the new plan would not necessarily exceed the ceiling. ``It depends on what the GNP will be,'' he said.

The Japanese government has been restrained in raising defense spending by strong antimilitary sentiment in the nation, a constitutional ban on offensive capabilities, and Finance Ministry attempts to stem budget deficits.

Angola says S. Africa made big raids into its territory

South Africa said its planes carried out reconaissance flights Tuesday to help ground forces fighting the South-West Africa People's Organization. But Angola said South Africa made air raids on Angolan forces, hurting a government drive against a rebel group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). An Angolan Defense Ministry communiqu'e issued Tuesday night in Luanda said: ``The South African Air Force carried out massive strikes against our units engaged in actions against the puppet bandits of UNITA 19 km [10 miles] from Mavinga.''