PARIS, NOV. 30 -- French police lifted a five-month blockade of the Iranian Embassy here today as officials expressed guarded hope their secret bargain with Tehran will lead to the swift release of France's three remaining hostages in Lebanon.
Paul Torri, the French consul accused of smuggling and espionage in Tehran, flew back to France after being handed over by Iranian authorities at Karachi, Pakistan. The Iranian official allowed to leave France last night, Wahid Gordji, arrived in Karachi via Cyprus at the same time and boarded a plane bound for Tehran after the exchange.
The French Foreign Ministry, explaining the agreement, said about 40 Iranian diplomatic officials and dependents who have been kept here since July also are now free to go. Similarly, the eight other French personnel confined to the French Embassy in Tehran have been authorized to leave Iran with dependents and will return home soon, a ministry spokesman said.
The unexpectedly broad bargain with Iran, which took effect Friday as two French hostages were released in Beirut, is next expected to renew negotiations on the remaining part of France's billion-dollar debt to Iran and, eventually, normalized relations, the spokesman said. But the remaining three hostages will have to be released as part of the process, he emphasized.
"Given the influence Iran has on the hostage cases, we consider that a normalization of relations cannot take place without" their release, he said.
The three remaining hostages -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann, a journalist, and Marcel Carton and Marcel Fontaine, identified as diplomats -- have been acknowledged as captives of Islamic Jihad. French analysts have described the group as an arm of the Lebanese Hezbollah party, a Shiite organization close to Iran.
Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, in a communique issued as Gordji left last night, said Iran's influence was essential in the release of Jean-Louis Normandin and Roger Auque, who were freed by a Beirut-based group called the Revolutionary Justice Organization. Chirac declared that Iranian influence also "should permit the return to freedom of the hostages still detained."
Chirac gave no timetable, but there were indications today that French officials believe the agreement with Iran has strongly enhanced prospects of getting out the remaining hostages. President Francois Mitterrand, for example, declined to comment on details of the agreement when questioned by a reporter during inauguration of the new Arab World Institute here, but then said: "My silence is the respect that I must have and that every Frenchman must have for the chances that these fellow citizens have to be freed soon."