Tue, Jul 13, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Kidnappers should not deter foreign workers, Iraq says

REUTERS , BAGHDAD

Kidnappers threatening to kill a Filipino and two Bulgarians in Iraq kept the hostages' loved ones on tenterhooks yesterday, as Baghdad said security fears should not scare foreign workers away.

Militants had said they would kill Filipino driver Angelo de la Cruz on Sunday unless Manila vowed to bring its 51-strong contingent home by July 20, a month earlier than scheduled, but a Philippine official said the deadline had been extended.

"I think there are now new signals that the extension of the deadline has been given another 48-hour life," Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas said, without elaborating.

Bulgaria said it was still confident its two nationals were alive despite the passing of an execution deadline on Friday.

"We ... have enough operational data which show that the two are alive and that the captors are receiving our messages through the Arabic satellite TV al Jazeera and the Bulgarian media," Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said.

Four days ago kidnappers threatened to kill the Bulgarians within 24 hours unless the US freed Iraqi prisoners.

Iraq said kidnappers should not be allowed to extract ransom or deter foreigners from working in the country.

"We still ask foreign workers to come to Iraq and try to rebuild Iraq, but also to be very careful and cautious," Mowaffaq Abboud, an adviser to Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, told a news conference.

"Still there are safe places for foreigners in Iraq," he said, citing southern and northern provinces.

The hostage crisis is among many challenges for Iraq's new government. President Ghazi al-Yawar was quoted yesterday as saying Baghdad would introduce an amnesty for rebels within "a couple of days."

Also see story:

Iraq to ask EU aid, reopen embassies

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