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The crushing of the Iraqi army has redrawn the map of Middle East politics, but U.S. analysts say this may not translate into early freedom for the six Americans and at least six others held hostage in Lebanon.

The United States and Britain have launched fresh drives to free the hostages through appeals to Iran and Syria, thought to have influence with the Lebanese groups holding the captives. Iran was officially neutral in the six-week Persian Gulf war while Syria fought alongside the allies.But experts on the region are not overly optimistic about the prospects for release, partly because the hostages apparently remain a valuable commodity to their captors.

Increasingly, analysts regard the hostage-takers as zealots outside the sway of central authorities in both Iran, their principal source of inspiration, and Syria, which controls large parts of Lebanon with 40,000 troops.