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Hostages should be freed, Iranian newspaper says

All 18 Western hostages in Lebanon should be freed because they have become a propaganda tool for Iran's enemies, an Iranian newspaper close to President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Thursday. Most of the captives are believed held by kidnappers loyal to Iran.

"Regardless of the West's propaganda ploys, Moslem forces, out of Islamic and humanitarian considerations, should work to get the hostages free with no precondition," the English-language Tehran Times said in an editorial, parts of which were carried by Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency.

It was the first known statement by an Iranian newspaper in support of freeing all the hostages, whose fate is believed linked to a power struggle within the Iranian government.

Eight Americans, four Britons, an Irishman, an Italian, two West Germans and two Swiss citizens are captives in Lebanon.

In its editorial, the Tehran Times said the struggle against Western influence in the Middle East is legitimate and should continue, but that all forces in Lebanon should work to free hostages of whatever nationality.

"Maybe 1990 will be the year for the release of all the hostages," it said.