283. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the President’s Meeting with Hostage Family Representatives of F.L.A.G. (Family Liaison Action Group)


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Katherine Keough, President of F.L.A.G.
  • Pearl Golacinski, Mother of Alan B. Golacinski, Security Officer
  • Louisa Kennedy, Wife of Economic Officer, Moorhead Kennedy
  • Barbara Rosen, Wife of Barry Rosen, USICA Press Attaché
  • Gary Sick, NSC
  • Ray Jenkins, White House Press Office

Mrs. Kennedy briefed the President on the recent trip she and several other FLAG members had made to Europe. They asked for Allied unity and solidarity on the question of the taking of diplomatic hostages, and they had the impression that the U.S. has Allied support. However, the Allies must take action in their own way.

The President said that he had received private assurances of support from the Allies, but public statements to the contrary were blown out of proportion by the press, and there was an impression in the U.S. that the Allies were not behind us. He thought the FLAG visit was meaningful and helpful.

Mrs. Keough summarized their recent contacts with the TV networks. They are seeking support for coverage of five hostage families and five Iranian families who suffered persecution under the Shah. The objective is to show that communication is possible among ordinary people and between governments despite very great differences.

The President said the project would be more effective if he was not involved. However, he thought that anything the hostage families did in a human way could be helpful. He wondered about family trips to Iran. He had noted that Mrs. Timm was condemned when she returned, and he regretted this.

Mrs. Keough also noted their efforts to get an opportunity to make a brief appearance before the Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference in Islamabad. They had contacted a number of Mid East Ambassadors, and they had sent telexes to Muscat, Jidda and Islamabad.

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The President said he was inclined to support the effort, though the hand of the U.S. Government should not show. He suggested that FLAG might also consider getting in touch with Archbishop Capucci, who is close to Khomeini.

Mrs. Kennedy said the Vatican had asked them not to publicize its role.

The President summarized U.S. efforts presently underway. Secretary General Waldheim had contacted him yesterday and there was a chance that one or two members of the UN Commission might return to Tehran. This had resulted from Waldheim’s conversation with Ghotbzadeh, who is the only one in Iran with any political courage—although he came across on TV as a sleazy character. Bani-Sadr was just nothing, and it had been a serious mistake for us when he was elected. He delayed carrying out his commitments to us and had permitted Beheshti and others to undermine the negotiations. The President said he saw no immediate prospects for the Majlis to release the hostages since they were disorganized. There were four tracks which could go on simultaneously: (1) the UN; (2) Islamic religious leaders who could be in contact in Tehran; (3) the European allies; and (4) the human side with the hostage families. He was pushing the first three, and he would leave the fourth to FLAG. If FLAG needed help with the TV networks, Ray Jenkins, Jody Powell, or Hodding Carter at State would help. He asked that they keep his comments private.

Mrs. Keough said they had found it was better that they do it themselves. One problem is that they are accused of being a “front” for the U.S. Government. If they constantly deny that, the President should understand that this does not mean that they do not appreciate everything he is doing.

The President wondered how we could assist in getting them an appearance at the Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference.

Sick said that he would work with Harold Saunders to give them some assistance without evidence of U.S. Government sponsorship.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 119, Meetings File, 5/13/80 Hostage Family Representatives Meeting with President. Confidential. Cleared by Gary Sick. The meeting took place in the Oval Office.