Jesse Jackson is still open to the idea of a US rescue mission on behalf of six Americans kidnapped in Lebanon. The question to be determined is whether or not it is feasible, he says. Families of the hostages are well aware of Mr. Jackson's success last year in getting Syrian authorities to release an American Navy flier.
The families appealed to Jackson for help last month in working for the release of the hostages, at least five of whom are believed held by a fundamentalist Muslim group known as Islamic Jihad.
Jackson says he is in touch with family members almost daily. A poster taped to the front door of Operation PUSH headquarters here called ``Set the captives free'' is also a constant reminder. The poster, pictures the Rev. Lawrence Jenco of Joliet, Ill., one of those currently held.
Jackson says the kidnapped Americans, who are being held with two French diplomats, are ``living on death row.'' But he says the current situation is far more delicate than the Syrian expedition, where there was a clearly identifiable head of state and ``spot of ground'' involved.
``If we can determine who we can make a humanitarian and moral appeal to, and where, we will go,'' he says.
Jackson last month took part in making and sending tape-recorded appeals for release of the hostages to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, France, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and Algeria for broadcast on radio and television.
``All you can do is reach out and lay the groundwork until you can finally determine the right moment,'' he says.
The Reagan administration has said it will not stand in Jackson's way and would ``facilitate'' his efforts despite its preference for using its own channels in such cases.
The Islamic Jihad, believed to have ties to Iran, is demanding the release of 17 men convicted in Kuwait of terrorist bombings there in 1983. The US State Department position is that terrorist demands are not negotiable.
The US has told Iran it faces possible military retaliation if any American is killed. Jackson says he thinks such ``idle threats'' are dangerous.
``As a practical matter you negotiate with who you have to negotiate with -- often you can't choose your enemies,'' he says.
``This is a situation where American lives are at stake but national security is not. Therefore, you do whatever you can to salvage the lives.''