President Carter now believes it is unlikely the 52 hostages will be freed by Iran before he leaves office Jan. 20, White House spokesman Jody Powell said. He said the chances of Iran's releasing the hostages before Ronald Reagan becomes president "have been considerably diminished" because of Iran's demand for $24 billion in guarantees from the United States.
As he spoke, State Department officials held a final meeting with algerian intermediaries who were to leave with the US response to the demand. Mr. Powell left no doubt that the response would formally reject it.
A spokesman for Mr. Reagan, meanwhile, said that the President-elect supports Mr. Carter's stand.