Attorney General Edwin Meese III carefully sidestepped questions yesterday about whether the United States is considering a plan to kidnap and prosecute the two Shiite Moslems who hijacked a Trans World Airlines jet last month and killed a Navy diver on board.
Meese said the Reagan administration is "pursuing a number of legal avenues" in connection with the hijacking but he would not say what they include.
Asked whether the United States would consider kidnaping the hijackers or other terrorists, Meese said, "In general we do not intend or desire to disobey the laws of any country, including our own, and so it would depend a great deal on a number of circumstances . . . .
"It would depend upon all of the circumstances, whether there was a law against kidnaping in the country involved. But let me say these comments I'm making in response to your hypothetical question have no relationship whatsoever to the TWA hijacking case," Meese said.
Asked again about the possibility of kidnaping the hijackers, Meese said, "I don't want to leave you with the impression that we will [consider kidnaping] . . . [and] I don't want to leave you with the impression that we won't. I want to leave you with the impression that that is not a subject on which I've commented affirmatively or negatively."
Meese also refused to comment on a report in The Wall Street Journal that the government will convene a grand jury and ask that the hijackers be indicted on charges of air piracy and murder.
Government lawyers said yesterday that if such an indictment were returned, an extradition request could be made to the Lebanese government for the two Shiites. However, the lawyers said that although both countries have signed an international agreement forbidding the unlawful seizure of aircraft, there is no extradition treaty in effect with Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters at a breakfast meeting that the United States "ultimately" needs to retaliate for the hijacking "even if there was the possibility -- and hopefully it would be a remote possibility -- of involving innocent victims."
Lugar suggested that "cratering the airport" at Beirut might be necessary. "Maybe you could do that by dropping a bomb. Maybe you could stand there on the airport and use dynamite," Lugar said.
"I don't think we should be paralyzed by worrying to the Nth degree about whether it's an absolutely surgical strike . . . that would not harm innocent people."