DAMASCUS, SYRIA, AUG. 18 -- American journalist Charles Glass, held hostage in Beirut's Shiite suburbs for two months, said here today that he escaped by loosening his chains and locking his sleeping guards inside the apartment where they had held him captive.

Glass, 36, a journalist working on a book about the region, said he managed to escape to the seafront Summerland Hotel and seek a Syrian military escort to Damascus.

In conversation with friends and colleagues after the Syrians released him to the custody of U.S. Charge d'affaires David Ransom, Glass said he waited until he heard his guards snoring in the middle of the night to make his escape.

He said he slipped out of the chains binding his wrist and ankles and departed through the kitchen door, locking it and throwing away the keys. He then went down seven flights of stairs from the apartment where he was detained by Shiite Moslem kidnapers, who were believed to be working for Iran.

There was speculation today that Syria and Iran may have played a role in Glass gaining his freedom. A senior Syrian official said Glass was "led to believe he escaped." Glass, however, insisted he had escaped and was only told when arriving in the Syrian capital that a release "was in the works."

{Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa said the Syrians had a hand in getting Glass out of captivity, but he gave no details, The Associated Press reported.

{A Syrian source, who is closely connected with the Syrian military based in Lebanon, said Glass' kidnapers allowed him to get away "so they would not appear to have bowed to Syrian pressure" to free the American, AP said.

{In Washington, an administration official familiar with the kidnaping suggested that Glass' release might have been ordered by Iran.}

Briefing reporters on the condition that he not be identified, the official said the United States is "confident that Iran ordered Glass' kidnaping" and "it is safe to assume Iran was . . . effective in ordering his release."

Conceding that he had substantial evidence to support only the kidnaping claim, but not the hypothesis of Iran's involvement in Glass' release, the official suggested nonetheless that Iran may have acted in response to pressures from Syria.

"Glass is the only hostage taken since the Syrians moved into" Beirut in February, the official said. "The Syrians put pressure on Iran" after U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters raised the issue of the kidnapings during a visit to the region several months ago, the official said.

Glass said his captors never told him why he was kidnaped. "We just have certain goals," he said they told him.

He said he was never physically tortured but was threatened. In an ABC "Nightline" interview he said that the first time he asked for water, a guard responded, "Why water? You death. You no need water."

Glass was abducted June 17 along with Ali Osseiran, the son of Lebanon's Shiite defense minister, while they were driving through Ouzai, a coastal stretch of road forking into a wasteland of reddish sand bordering Beirut's southern suburbs, a haven for Iran-backed extremists and fundamentalist groups.

"I was never beaten, but I was chained all the time at my wrist and ankle except when I was allowed to go to the bathroom twice a day," Glass told a small group gathered at the Ransom residence where he had lunch today.

When he arrived at the Summerland Hotel, barefoot and wearing a rumpled, dirty track suit, Glass introduced himself to the receptionist, saying, "I am Charles Glass, I need a place to hide." He asked for a security force to protect him and called a close companion who works for a television network in Beirut as well as his physician, Dr. Noureddine Koush.

Looking pale and haggard and perhaps 25 pounds lighter than before the kidnaping, Glass had shaved and changed clothes when he met reporters here.

"I could hear the guards snoring," he said. "I had figured out a way to widen the chains around my hand and leg and slowly crept to the kitchen door.

"The keys were left in the lock and the door was double-locked, so the guards could let themselves in and out. I undouble-locked it. I could not get out from the balcony so I headed to the front door. After locking the guards in, I tossed the key into a garbage pile.

"I yelled out to some people sitting out on their balcony to find out if they had a phone. Then I ran toward a bakery and asked for a phone. The people there started arguing. Then a car pulled up, a father, his wife and a son. I explained in broken Arabic that I was a Canadian of Lebanese origin and asked to be driven to the Summerland Hotel so I can call a doctor for my sick daughter. I did not let them know I was a hostage so they would not be frightened."

Glass said his captors moved him four times.. The first time was prompted by the discovery of a message Glass had stuffed in a hole in a bathroom asking whoever found it to call certain numbers and say where he was in return for $10,000.

In an interview with ABC, Glass added, "Over a period of weeks, any opportunity I had, I was pushing these notes out the window. I began writing the notes in my own blood because I didn't have a pen." Glass said he obtained the blood by cutting himself with his razor.

In the "Nightline" interview, Glass confirmed that in a videotape released by his captors July 7 he tried to make it clear that he was acting under duress. He read the prepared statement with a gun at his head, he said, continuing: "I did everything in that tape to convince my friends, at ABC particularly, that this was not me, these were not my words. By reading the text, as ungrammatical as it was; by speaking in a southern accent so that they would know I was in south Beirut . . . and I held the paper in such a way that my fingers were crossed."

Upon arriving in Damascus, Glass told an ABC colleague, "I want to be on the first flight to London. I want to see my family."

{Glass arrived at London's Gatwick Airport early Wednesday, according to airport officials, and was greeted by his wife, Fiona, and five children, AP reported.}