BEIRUT, JUNE 21 -- A senior Syrian official conferred with the religious guide of the militant Shiite Moslem group Hezbollah today in efforts to free kidnaped American reporter Charles Glass and two Lebanese.
Syria's military intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kanaan, rushed from Damascus for a private meeting with Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, an influential Shiite cleric, apparently to ask for Fadlallah's intervention with Hezbollah, which is believed to hold the hostages. Defense Minister Adel Osseiran said it is Hezbollah that kidnaped Glass, along with Osseiran's son, Ali, and his driver last Wednesday. Security sources said they were being held in the mainly Shiite suburb of Bir Abed.
The 82-year-old defense minister said on Lebanese television he would try to contact Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, Ahmed Dalmachian, on Monday, hoping that he would "assume a role of rationality and help us in this matter."
Kanaan's return from Damascus, to where he was recalled immediately after the kidnaping, appeared to underline the unusual personal interest of Syrian President Hafez Assad in ending the affair. Kanaan carried a personal letter from Assad to Osseiran and a pledge of every effort in freeing the hostages.
Syria is eager to show that its military presence in west Beirut can make the area safe for westerners. Kanaan and his aides declined to say today whether military action might be used to release the hostages.
Kanaan looked drawn and visibly tense after his meeting with Fadlallah and declined to comment on the talks. "There is nothing to say now," he replied curtly to reporters as he arrived at Osseiran's home.
The fact that Glass was taken captive with the only son of a prominent Shiite family has sustained hopes here that the kidnapers will not hold on to him as they have other American hostages. Glass is the first westerner to be abducted since Syria sent about 7,500 troops here to tame the anarchic Moslem half of Beirut and drive militiamen off the streets.
Observers said it was conceivable Glass' abduction was not only related to U.S.-Iranian tension but also to the complex relationship between Damascus and Tehran. Syria is the only Arab state to have supported Iran in its war with Iraq, but it has also tried cautiously to balance that alliance against its ties to other Arab nations.
Defense Minister Osseiran told visitors he understood that the hostages were well and hoped that they would be released within the next two days. "Neither my son nor Glass have done anything wrong and there is nothing to justify their imprisonment," Osseiran told a Shiite clergyman calling on him. "There is a special fondness between us and the Americans, especially the Glass family. These sentiments are mutual," he added.