NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- An Iranian newspaper, the Tehran Times, said yesterday that one or two Americans could be freed from captivity in Lebanon within days, and a radio station said that all three U.S. hostages would be released bory Dec,9.
The reports coincided with a new trip to the Middle East by the United Nations secretary-general's envoy to resolve the hostage ordeal.
The Paris-based Radio Monte Carlo reported from Tehran, Iran, that Joseph Cicippio and Alann Steen will be freed "no later than Wednesday." The third American hostage, Terry Anderson, will be out within 10 days, it said.
The Tehran Times has been accurate in previous reports predicting hostage releases. But Radio Monte Carlo, which broadcasts in Arabic, has never made such predictions.
Monte Carlo's correspondent in Tehran, Mohammed Sadeq Husseini, said he obtained his information from "reliable sources" there.
The editors of the Tehran Times said their correspondent in southern Lebanon reported that hectic activity was under way to obtain the freedom of one or two Americans.
"The matter is so complicated and so many channels are involved that the exact date or time cannot be reported, at least at this stage," the correspondent was quoted as saying.
"However, there is every possibility that one or two American hostages may be released soon . . . maybe in a few days time."
Monte Carlo's correspondent linked the anticipated release of the hostages to the settlement of a financial dispute between Washington and Tehran at a Dutch-based international tribunal earlier this week.
U.S. officials had denied any linkage between the hostages and the document, signed Tuesday in the Netherlands. It stipulated the repayment to Iran of $278 million for weapons impounded by Washington 12 years ago.
The weapons were impounded after the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants who held 52 U.S. hostages for 444 days.
The radio report also tied the return to the Middle East of U.N. envoy Giandomenico Picco to the success the talks.
"Picco's return points to the release soon, no later than Wednesday, of Americans Joseph Cicippio and Alann Steen," Monte Carlo reported. The release of Mr. Anderson, the report said, "is also expected within 10 days as of today."
Mr. Picco has been the chief envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in intense efforts to free the hostages. Since Mr. Perez de Cuellar began his efforts in August, six hostages had been freed. The secretary-general predicted earlier all the Westerners would be out by Christmas.