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Ronald Reagan Administration: Exchange with Reporters on the TWA Hijacking Incident

(June 16, 1985)

Q. Mr. President -- --

Q. -- -- trying to help the hostages?

Q. What about the hostages?

The President. Now -- --

Q. What can you do to help the hostage situation?

Q. -- -- to help the hostages?

The President. Well, we're doing everything we can do, but I'm not going to talk about details. I don't think that would be proper.

Q. Are you ruling out U.S. military response, sir?

The President. I'm not going to comment on anything of that kind.

Q. What do you know about the rumors or the -- not rumors, but the fact that they've taken several hostages off in Beirut, six hostages, we believe -- people with what they said were Jewish-sounding names.

The President. Yes, and I think that's been made public, yes.

Q. What can we -- --

Q. Have we been able to talk to the Government in Lebanon or whoever's in charge over there about that?

The President. Yes, we're very much concerned about those hostages also.

Q. Do you have any idea where those people are being held?

Q. Mr. President, do you see any encouraging signs, sir?

The President. I just don't want to comment on anything of that kind.

Q. Are we going to negotiate -- --

The President. The very fact that it has gone on this long without any of their threats of violence or that general destruction and massacre have not been carried out, naturally, is encouraging.

Q. Well, sir, can this be negotiated? Can it be worked out?

Q. Would you like to see Israel return some of those Shiite prisoners, sir?

The President. This is a decision for them to make, and the decision isn't so simple as just trading prisoners. The decision is at what point can you pay off the terrorists without endangering people from here on out once they find out that their tactics succeed.

Q. Are you still opposed then? Are you still opposed to negotiating with terrorists?

The President. This has always been a position of ours, yes.

Q. Sir, how might this be worked out, then?

The President. Well, again, I can't -- --

Q. Give us your thoughts on a way.

The President. No, I can't comment. I think that we're going to continue doing the things that we're doing and just hope that they themselves will see that -- for their own safety -- that they'd better turn these people loose.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Sir, have you talked to any governments this morning, and have you carried any requests to the Israelis, the Syrians?

The President. We've been in contact with the Governments of Lebanon and Syria and Israel, but again, I can't go any further in any details.

Q. Why did you decide to cut short your weekend, sir? We'd been told that you were going to stay for the full time.

The President. Well, I decided with this third trip to Beirut now and the activity that is going on that I'd rather be here, face to face, than dealing on the telephone.

Q. What will you do this afternoon?

Q. What are you going to do now that you're here? What would you do?

Q. What are you going to do this afternoon?

The President. Well, we're going to continue consulting and keeping up to date on the bulletins for any openings that may come.

Q. Do you think there's a way to end this peacefully, sir?

The President. I have to believe that.

Q. What were you suggesting when you said that for their own safety they should turn these people loose?

The President. Well, there have been instances in which hijackers have found that action was taken that resulted in their death or capture so -- --

Q. Would action be taken in this case?

The President. Again, I would be comenting on the details, and I've said I won't comment.

Q. Thank you.

Sources: Public Papers of the President