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West Germany's extradition dilemma

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WEST GERMANY appears caught in a dilemma. It can extradite to the United States Muhammad Ali Hamadi, wanted there in connection with the TWA hijacking and murder of Robert Stetham in June 1985, in accord with its obligations under a June 1978 extradition treaty. In doing so, it risks the death of at least two innocent West Germans now in the hands of the Hizbullah (Party of God) in Lebanon.

If West Germany, on the other hand, decides to release Mr. Hamadi, it will have to grapple with the ensuing political and legal implications. The pressures to bargain with the Hizbullah are immense.

Significant constituencies exist in West Germany and in the world at large for either course.

Political forces pulling toward a bargaining stance with the Hizbullah include West Germany's relations with various Middle Eastern states and its oil and investment concerns. Also pulling toward a bargain is the notion - hitherto attractive to several European countries - that ``neutrality'' in Middle Eastern struggles can be bought by allowing potential ``terrorists'' to pass over a nation's territory and through its airports as long as no crime is committed against local law in the process.

The US has shown its contempt for international law by its withdrawal from the World Court after a disagreement over the legality of US activities in Nicaragua and by its rhetoric in many other areas. Certainly that gives West Germany ample basis for citing the US case against itself regarding the sanctity of law, including treaty-based law. Also, American bargaining with Iran over the release of American hostages held by the Hizbullah in Lebanon encourages West Germany to follow suit, dealing directly with the Hizbullah if necessary. The encouragement is there - even at the expense of the US interest in trying an accused hijacker of an American aircraft and murderer of an American passenger.

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