The Irish government issued a passport to Iraq hostage Ken Bigley in the hope that the country's long history of conflict with Britain might sway those holding him. \nThe government planned to scan a copy of the passport for screening on the Arab television network al-Jazeera yesterday. \nBigley went to Iraq on a British passport but is entitled to Irish citizenship because his mother, Elizabeth, was born in Ireland. \nThe Irish foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, said: "Kenneth Bigley's family has asked for an Irish passport to be issued in order to help convince his kidnappers of his Irish citizenship. \n"I am happy to agree to this request and I, the Taoiseach, and the government as a whole very much hope that it will contribute to the efforts to secure his release." \nThe Irish passport is aimed at testing the theory that the group that kidnapped him, led by Abu Musad al-Zarqawi, might be swayed by Ireland's repeated rebellions against British rule. \nThe move came as Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the 32-year-old son of the Libyan leader, said he was using contacts in Iraq in an effort to free Bigley. \n"We have good contacts in Iraq. We have friends in hospitals ... tribal leaders and we are talking to them," Qaddafi told journalists at the opening of a Libyan art exhibition in Vienna yesterday. \nThe possibility of using Irish citizenship was first raised by Bigley's brother, Paul, in a radio interview in Ireland almost a fortnight ago. The Irish foreign minister, Brian Cowen, almost immediately raised it with the UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, at a private meeting at the UN. \nPaul Bigley, who has mounted a vociferous campaign from his home in Amsterdam, said last night that he was "ecstatic" over the Irish passport. \n"This probably means the freedom of Ken," he said. "The Arab world has great respect for the Irish and the Irish government and respect for the plight they have been going through for centuries. The fact that Ken is Irish and the fact that we have now proven that he is Irish ... I do not think there is any way that even the baddest of people would harm an Irish person." \nBigley refused to speculate on whether his brother receiving an Irish passport increased the likelihood of a ransom being paid to secure his release. "I don't know. If a ransom is made it has to be met. Where the pennies are going to come from, Lord only knows," he said. \nHis optimism was not matched by the Irish and British governments who see the passport move as part of their duty to pursue all options other than making concessions to the hostage-takers.
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