HOSTAGES: A Somber Holiday Vigil

Iran's "finalanswer"is "unreasonable"

"God willing, we shall soon no longer have the hostage issue." With those words, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Raja'i aroused fresh sparks of hope last week that the 52 Americans in captivity might be freed. Just possibly, said Raja'i, it could happen as early as "the feast, or the birthday, or whatever they call it."

For a brief time, U.S. officials hardened by months of false signals from Iran dared to believe that the hostages might be home for Christmas. The optimism ebbed when Iran's latest bargaining statement,...

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