West Germany

It seemed hardly the place, outside the windows of the 52 freed Americans, to be parading an Iranian flag.

But then, it turned out to be just the place for the unexpected, unusual and unreal this week.

Fifty-two Iranian exiles brought 52 red roses and a copy of the poetic writings of Omar Khayyam yesterday to present to the 52 former U.S. captives in a gesture rich in symbolism if a bit jarring to spectators.

The Iranians, who said they are now residents of West Germany, never got in to greet the former hostages, handing their gifts instead to a U.S. State Department spokesman who promised to forward them.

They did, however, get lots of press attention from what has been perhaps the world's largest gathering this week of captive media, and that had really been their design.

"The target was to tell the free world that the real Iranian nation is ashamed of this," said a spokesman for the group that calls itself the Iranian Liberation Army and looks forward to the day of a restored monarchy. i

IN THE END, 1,300 reporters, photographers and television and radio technicians came from around the world to cover the story here. Frustrated for much of the week by their lack of direct access to the freed hostages, except when they chose to walk outside and talk briefly with reporters waiting around the clock in the cold, the journalists resorted to subterfuge and technical surveillance.

Although the reporters besieging the hospital were banned from its well-guarded grounds, where the hostages lived this week on the third floor of the main building, other hospital patients, their relatives and other American service personnel and their families stationed here were free to come and go. They talked to the returning Americans in the hospital lounge, obtained their autographs and took their pictures.

Television networks and news services paid many of thee visitors to pass messages to the former hostages and recount what they said. These news organizations also bought pictures taken by the visitors for as much as $50 each.

News service photographers focused powerful 800 millimeter lenses, and even one gigantic 2,000 millimeter lens about a foot in diameter, on the third-floor balconies and windows for close-up pictures of any former hostages who ventured outside or even moved near their windows.

Television network technicians aimed equally powerful shotgun directional microphones inside the compound to pick up private conversations the former hostages had with visitors just outside the hospital's entrance half a football field away.

The massive media stakeout blocked the sidewalks and two of the four lanes of the busy Wiesbaden street where the hospital is with mobile television units, equipment-filled vans and reporters and photographers' cars.

The stakeout attracted curious West Germans and American military personnel from miles around, Plus the kind of publicity-seekers that often turn up in television camera range at an event such as the Super Bowl.

Television networks continued to broadcast around the world from makeshift studios and bedrooms and bathrooms filled with sophisticated electronic equipment on the top four floors of an entire wing of the Sheraton Hotel at the Frankfurt airport about 20 miles away.

WHILE JOURNALISTS found military officers and press aides to be generally as cooperative as the meager information given to them allowed, they became increasingly restive as the week went on with State Department officials in charge of the operation here.

The State Department press spokesman, Jack Cannon, who was supposed to bridge the gap between the isolated hostages and the press, was accused in increasingly acrimonious briefing sessions of being poorly informed and not always conveying accurate information. He also seemed to delight in his relative unavailability to reporters outside of the hour each day he spent at the briefings before the world's television cameras.

When asked once where reporters with question could reach him later in the day, Cannon said his office was in the off-limits hospital where the former hostages were staying.

"It's the best press office in the world," he said, laughing. "No press can get there."