VETERAN CBS WAR REPORTER LOST IN GULF DESERT

CBS correspondent Bob Simon, who disappeared along with his crew in the Saudi desert last week, was described by colleagues as an aggressive reporter who considered it his duty to go to the front lines, even if the Pentagon objected. The all-terrain vehicle used by Mr. Simon, producer Peter Bluff, cameraman Roberto Alvarez, and soundman Juan Caldera was found Thursday in northern Saudi Arabia near the Kuwait border in the vicinity of the Saudi town of Al-Rouqui.

``Expert Saudi trackers followed footprints from the Simon vehicle into Kuwait and north to the nearest Kuwaiti checkpoint manned by Iraqi forces,'' the Saudi Information Office said. ``The trackers were unable to proceed further.''

It is the first case of missing journalists in the gulf war.

Like an increasing number of correspondents, particularly those who covered the Vietnam war, Simon had become frustrated by the Pentagon's restrictive pool arrangement for reporters in the Gulf.

``We're not going to speculate what happened to the crew,'' says one CBS staffer, speaking anonymously. But another staffer says ``there is concern that perhaps they got lost and ran out of gas and were picked up by the Iraqis.''

Morton Dean, a former CBS correspondent now with ABC, says, ``I remember Bob in Vietnam. He didn't take risks. But he would go to the story. He would do it not for the excitement, but because he believed it was important to be there.''

Last week, despite military warnings, Simon went out without a guide or a military escort to report from the front.

A CBS staffer says Simon went last weekend to Hafra al Batin, an eight-hour drive northwest from Dhahran. It is assumed among the rank-and-file at CBS that network executives did not know of Simon's plans and that the correspondent ``was flying his own ship.''

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