One of the best-known former Western hostages held by Islamic guerillas, Terry Waite, has returned to Lebanon for the first time in 12 years.

The lanky, bearded Englishman whose name became synonymous with hostage-taking in the 1980s, has come back to Lebanon for the first time as a free man.

Mr. Waite was kidnapped in 1987 when he came to Beirut as a special envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on a mission to try to free Western hostages held by Lebanese guerillas. He was eventually released in 1991, after four years in captivity.

Explaining the purpose of his visit, Mr. Waite says he is now fighting a new battle, for children and refugees, under a YMCA group he founded called Y-Care International. He says the plight of many Middle East refugees is much worse than his fate as a hostage.

Mr. Waite spent his first day back in Lebanon touring two of the 12 refugee camps, which house 350,000 Palestinians in northern Lebanon. Mr. Waite told journalists he was glad to be back in Lebanon, joking that he does not expect to be late returning home this time around.

Lebanese television reported that Mr. Waite expects to visit Gaza and the West Bank after his Lebanon tour.