Iraq: Do not negotiate on hostages

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Baghdad has urged governments not to negotiate with hostage takers amid uncertainty over reports Manila is going to withdraw its troops.

Militants holding a Filipino in Iraq have said they will release him on Tuesday, according to a diplomatic source in Baghdad.

It was not clear how the message of his release was conveyed.

The news came moments after the Philippine government said it would withdraw its 50-member humanitarian force from Iraq "as soon as possible" to save the life of Angelo de la Cruz, a 46-year-old father of eight.

The statement was made by the Philippines deputy foreign minister on the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera network.

Most governments have said that although they talk with militants, no ransoms have been paid or demands met.

A senior U.S. administration official has said the White House had no official notice that the Philippines would pull its troops early.

U.S. officials have stressed the importance of countries with hostages in Iraq not giving in to terrorists.

Vice President Cheney said so repeatedly in April when visiting Tokyo while Japanese civilians were being held in Iraq.

President Bush visited the Philippines last fall and praised President Gloria Arroyo for her work to dismantle terrorist groups in her country.

The abductors have extended a deadline to behead de la Cruz several times, urging the Philippines to depart Iraq by July 20.

"In the name of the Filipino people and the name of humanity and the family of de la Cruz and his eight children, the government of the Philippines is pleading for his release," Deputy Foreign Minister Rafael Seguis told the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera.

The hostage-takers have identified themselves as members of the Khaled Bin Al-Walid Squadrons, part of the Islamic Army of Iraq.

Earlier Monday, Al-Jazeera reported that the group said it had taken de la Cruz to the place where his "punishment" would be meted out.

"They offered him food and water," the network reported.

"The hostage asked that his corpse be handed to his government, and he asked for one more day to allow him the chance of sending one last message to his president. The [kidnappers'] statement continued that the Islamic Army did its best to prove to the world it did everything it could to keep the hostage alive."

Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Delia Albert said Sunday that her government would not comply with the demand, a decision announced after a five-hour Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said Sunday it had information indicating two of its citizens being held hostage in Iraq were alive, though a reported deadline set by the kidnappers had passed.

The ministry identified the hostages as Ivailo Kepov and Georgi Lazov, and said they are truckers.

13/07/2004

Bron : CNN

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