NEW ORLEANS -- Former President Gerald Ford congratulated President Carter Monday for winning agreement for release of the American hostages held in Iran, saying the United States' payments in the exchange could not be considered blackmail.
After a speech to a businessmen's group, Ford told UPI he does not think the United States gave up too much by sending $9 billion to Iran through intermediaries.
'I was told the money being transferred are assets that belong to Iran,' Ford said. 'If that's true then no ransom is being paid.'
Earlier, in his speech, Ford congratulated Carter for resolving the crisis.
'I have been watching closely the developments in the hostage crisis and we have wonderful news,' Ford said. 'The odds are overwhelmingly positive that they will return to their familes and loved ones very soon.
'We thank God for their safe return.'
Then, however, Ford rehashed his complaints about the Carter administration.
'Ronald Reagan will take the oath Tuesday and inherit a full platter of difficult problems, including runaway stagflation, the dangers of military weakness and dependence on foreign oil,' said Ford.
'The disarray of the economy is especially unbelievable and unconscionable.'
Ford, who criss-crossed the country last year to campaign for Reagan, 'respectfully suggested' several steps he would take to improve the economy and bolster our defense.
He expressed confidence in the new administration.
'The United States should walk softly and carry a big stick when dealing with the ominous threat of the Soviet arms build-up,' Ford said. 'And I believe the new administration will do exactly that.'