Nicosia, Cyprus — The third day of the hijack drama at Iran's remote Mashhad airport appeared to bring into the open tensions between Kuwait and Tehran. The senior Iranian official at the scene, Deputy Prime Minister Alireza Moayeri, publicly accused the Kuwaitis of not taking the situation seriously.
Early Thursday morning, the hijackers released 30 passengers and two crew members, all non-Kuwaitis. That left 55 people on board, including the hijackers themselves, who are believed to number five or six.
Most hostages were believed to be Kuwaiti nationals, including three members of the ruling al-Sabah family. The hijackers warned that the three would ``pay dearly'' if their demands were not met. Iranian officials said one of the three, Anwar Khaled al-Sabah, made a distressed appeal to Kuwaiti negotiators to give in to the hijackers.
Mr. Moayeri said officials sent to Mashhad by Kuwait at Iranian request were absent from the control tower much of the time, and did not use radio facilities put at their disposal allowing them to talk to the hijackers directly.
The Kuwaiti delegation had earlier said it would not open negotiations with the hijackers until all hostages had been freed.
Despite repeated requests from Kuwait that the airliner not be allowed to leave Mashhad, Iranian officials said late Thursday they had agreed to refuel the plane after the hijackers had threatened to kill the pilot or to force him to take off with the plane's fuel tanks empty.
From the early hours of Tuesday's hijacking, Kuwait stressed the matter was one for the Iranian authorities to resolve.
Kuwait has refused to negotiate or compromise over the demand of the hijackers, who want the release of 17 Islamic extremists jailed in 1984 for bomb attacks in Kuwait the previous year.
In an apparent effort to solicit outside pressure on Tehran, Kuwait Thursday asked Turkey to intercede with the Iranians and persuade them to take responsibility for resolving the situation.
Turkey is one of the few nations that enjoys generally good relations with both Iran and Iraq, and adjoins both countries. Ankara announced it was prepared to conduct initiatives through diplomatic channels.
But Iran, adopting the stance of neutral go-between in the affair, displayed mounting impatience at Kuwait's refusal to negotiate directly with the hijackers. At one stage, Moayeri said Iranian officials had established a direct communications line between the hijackers and government officials in Kuwait, bypassing the Kuwaiti delegation already there.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA - one of the only sources of information on developments at Mashhad - reflected Tehran's apparent desire to distance itself from any suggestion of collusion with the hijackers. It said the gunmen had expressed disappointment with Iranian officials and had accused Iran of collaborating with Kuwait.
Similar tensions arose during the hijacking of a Kuwaiti Airbus to Tehran by Islamic militants in December 1984. A Kuwaiti delegation left Tehran in anger at Iran's handling of the affair.