M A I N   N E W S

Captors extend deadline
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
As the Iraqi group holding seven hostages extended its execution threat deadline (by 24 hours according to a PTI report), the hostage crisis apparently took a positive turn this evening with the government getting a little breathing space for negotiating the release of three Indian truck drivers.

The Black Banners, the group which had abducted seven persons, is understood to have conveyed through the negotiator Sheikh Hishan Al Dulaimi that it was willing to consider an extension of its deadline provided the Indian Embassy in Baghdad posted a clear message on local Arabic television channels that no Indian national would work for Kuwaiti firms.

However, no one is willing to define the exact nature and content of negotiations and what made the abductors to extend the deadline.

The Crisis Management Group, which met this evening, is keeping a close watch on the developments and is in touch with Sheikh Dulaimi.

Sources said the hostage crisis is slowly but surely moving towards a resolution as two sets of demands have emerged after negotiations between the abductors and Sheikh Dulaimi.

One set of demand is that the KGL, the Kuwaiti company for which these hostages have been working, should stop operating in Iraq.

The other demand is of monetary nature, sources said adding that other demands are meant as bargaining counters.

The Black Banners had threatened to execute one Indian by 8.30 p.m. IST today.

Earlier in the day, the government had described the crisis being in a "difficult situation". Sheikh Hisham Al Dulaimi had asked their captors not to harm the hostages.

"The information we have is that the negotiator (Dulaimi) has requested the captors not to carry out their threat", Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed told newspersons after a special meeting of the Crisis Management Group.

Asked whether the Government was optimistic about the hostage crisis being resolved expeditiously, he said "I am always hopeful. Let us all pray for good things. I am now going for Friday prayers".

"The contacts are on. But it is a difficult situation," Foreign Secretary Shashank, a member of the CMG said.

Mr Dulaimi, who has stated that he is assisting in the resolution of the hostage issue out of humanitarian considerations, requested the kidnappers to extend the deadline so as to give an opportunity for further negotiations.

His statement follows an appeal made by the Indian Embassy in Baghdad last evening which was communicated to him.

The KGL company has confirmed that it has established contact with Dulaimi and a meeting between him and a company representative was slated to take place.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has asked the government to respond to the demands of abductors of three Indians in Iraq by announcing that its citizens would not be allowed to engage in any activities to help the American forces.

At the party's Politburo meeting, the CPM also asked the government to make a categorical announcement that Indians will not be allowed to proceed to Iraq directly or indirectly to work in activities connected with American and allied forces' operations.


Natwarís plea to media on hostage crisis
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bangkok, July 30
Natwar Singh Hours before the captorsí deadline for starting the execution of seven hostages in Iraq, including three Indians, External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh today said that the Government of India had appealed to the captors to extend the deadline for further negotiations.

He read out a four-paragraph appeal issued by the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi this morning and read out by his deputy E. Ahamed. Mr Natwar Singh also impressed upon the media to exercise restraint.

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