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HIGH-LEVEL BRITON SEEKS HOSTAGES' RELEASE

Amid heavy security, the second-ranking official in Britain's Foreign Office began a freedom-seeking mission for Western hostages Monday by meeting with the wife of a countryman kidnapped two years ago.

Foreign Office Minister Douglas Hogg said after his 45-minute meeting with Sunny Mann, wife of retired airline pilot Jack Mann, that "there are grounds for careful optimism."They met in a room with bullet

proof windows at the consular section of the British Embassy in west Beirut's seaside res-i-den-tial dis-trict of Rouche.

As that meeting occurred, President Kurt Waldheim of Austria was on a visit to Iran, the first by a Western head of state since the 1979 Islamic revolution. News reports said he was expected to seek the release of the Westerners missing in Lebanon.

Speaking with reporters after meeting with Sunny Mann, Hogg cautioned:

"There's no reason to say that we are going to see an early release, and I don't want to give that impression. . . . On the other hand, I'm quite sure that a number of relevant governments are now recognizing the importance of releasing all hostages."

Hogg, who arrived from London on Sunday, was driven to the meeting place in an armor-plated Embassy Jaguar escorted by five jeep-loads of bodyguards and Leb-anese riot police in red berets.

Hogg is the first British Cabinet member to visit Lebanon in six years. He spent his first night in Beirut at the British Embassy in east Beirut's Christian district of Rabieh.

Hogg said he would be stressing to Lebanese leaders including President Elias Hrawi the importance of an early release of all hostages as it relates to Lebanon's economic recovery from 16 years of civil war.

In Tehran, Iran, Waldheim laid a wreath of flowers at the tomb of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the official Iranian news agency said.

Austrian press reports during the weekend said Waldheim, a former U.N. secretary-general, would seek the release of the Western hostages.