BEIRUT, JULY 8 -- The captors of two West Germans kidnaped in January praised the Bonn government today for not extraditing accused hijacker Mohammed Ali Hamadei to the United States and said they would match further favorable steps by Bonn.
The kidnapers also offered to exchange videotapes of the German hostages for one of Hamadei, provided that in it he "explains how he is living, and addresses his people, parents and fellow strugglers against Israel and imperialism."
The statement was the first communication from a previously unknown group, called the Strugglers for Freedom, who said they are holding West Germans Rudolf Cordes, 54, and Alfred Schmidt, 47, abducted separately in West Beirut by Iranian-linked members of Hezbollah. The statement was accompanied by a photocopy of Cordes' passport.
The abductions followed Hamadei's arrest at the Frankfurt airport in January. Hamadei, a Shiite Moslem, was found carrying liquid explosives. On Monday, West Germany filed murder and air piracy charges against him on the basis of evidence provided by the United States of his involvement in the June 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner to Beirut, in which U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem was killed.
The Arabic-language statement was delivered today to the An Nahar newspaper. It was largely conciliatory in tone and urged the West German government to act in a manner that would "encourage a peaceful end to this affair."
The message praised Syria, but also cautioned Syrian President Hafez Assad against rapprochement with Washington. It came a day after special U.S. envoy Vernon Walters ended talks in Damascus aimed at improving ties, which Washington reduced last fall to protest Syria's alleged role in terrorism.
The message charged that the United States was trying to bring Syria "out of the cycle of confrontation" against the United States and Israel. It expressed confidence, however, that Assad would exhibit his usual "wisdom and leadership" in guiding the rest of Syrian officialdom away from "imperialist" designs.
Release of the statement came a day after distribution of a videotape of kidnaped American reporter Charles Glass, 36, in which Glass, speaking haltingly and under apparent duress, read a prepared text saying he had worked as a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency -- a claim denied by the White House and other U.S. officials.
On June 24, Bonn announced that it would not extradite Hamadei, as the United States had requested, but would prosecute him in West Germany. By this move, the Strugglers for Freedom said, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had spared "the German people the greatest insult and humiliation."
The message, however, also called on Bonn to "apologize" to Syria for expelling five Syrian diplomats and recalling the West German ambassador from Damascus last November after a West German court found Syrian officials linked to a bombing in West Berlin.