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For more than a decade Algeria has played a pivotal role in crises involving hostages from a 1977 airline hijacking by Japanese terrorists to this week's grim odyssey of a commandeered Kuwait Airways jet.

At one point, Algeria adopted a policy of not accepting hijackers after it drew critical reaction for mediating deals and was accused of being a sanctuary for terrorists.But it gained international prestige for helping end the crisis in which 52 Americans were held by Iranian revolutionaries who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979. The hostages were held for 444 days before being flown from Iran to Algeria and freedom in January 1981.

The non-aligned North African nation uses secret diplomacy and maintains a practice in diplomatic exchanges of following other countries' wishes.

In 1985, Trans World Airlines Flight 847, carrying 145 passengers and eight crew members, flew twice to Algeria in a harrowing journey that began June 14 and ended 17 days later.

On the first day, 19 U.S. women, an American child and three people of other nationalities were released at the Algiers airport. The plane flew to Beirut, Lebanon, the following day and then returned to Algiers where 53 additional passengers and five flight attendants were freed in exchange for the release of a comrade of the hijackers at the Athens airport.

Starting in November 1980, Algeria reluctantly agreed to work as mediator in U.S.-Iranian negotiations to free the captive embassy personnel in Tehran.

"A happy ending might change the American view that we are communists," a senior Algerian official said at the time.

In October 1977, Algerian officials negotiated face-to-face at the foot of a Japanese Airlines DC-8 hijacked by Japanese Red Army guerrillas. The negotiators secured the release of the hostages in exchange for a $6 million ransom payment and the release of six Red Army members in Japanese jails.

Officials later indicated the hijackers were allowed to slip out of the country.

Algeria had agreed to let the plane land after a written request from the Japanese government, but it was roundly denounced by people who said Algeria was too lax with the hijackers.