M A I N   N E W S

Talks on, KGL ready to pull out
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
The government tonight voiced an optimistic note on the 11-day hostage issue, saying that the crisis might end soon on a “happy note” as the talks were on with the kidnappers of the three Indians in Iraq.

“The latest information I have from Baghdad and Kuwait is that the talks are going on. I have no other information,” Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed told reporters when asked if the 24-hour extension of the deadline by the kidnappers, which was to end this evening, had been extended.

However, sources said the kidnappers had conveyed to the negotiators that no fresh deadline was needed as the talks were in progress.

A top Arabic-knowing Indian diplomat, Mr Talmiz Ahmad, has been deputed to Iraq where the nominee of the employer of the hostages, the KGL, has begun direct talks with Mr Sheikh Hisham-Al-Dulaimi, negotiator for the kidnappers.

Reports reaching here from Baghdad say that the KGL has expressed its willingness to compensate victims of the US military action in Fallujah and pull out of Iraq to secure the release of its employees.

“We have been informed that Mr Mahdi Saleh has been officially authorised by the KGL company to negotiate on its behalf with Dulaimi, Chairman of the National League and Iraqi Tribes Members,” the minister said.





Mediator begins talks in Baghdad

Baghdad, July 31
Talks began today between an Iraqi mediator and a representative of a Kuwaiti firm to try to free seven of the company’s employees held hostage in Iraq, the mediator told Reuters.

“We are starting the talks,’’ Sheikh Hisham al-Dulaymi said. “We hope to reach a positive outcome for the sake of these hostages and rescue them.’’

Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company has sent a representative to Baghdad for talks with Dulaymi to try to win the release of three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian kidnapped this month by a group calling itself the “Black Banners’’ brigade of the Islamic Secret Army.

On Thursday, the kidnappers issued a videotape showing one of the Indian hostages, Antaryami, dressed in orange clothing and with a gun pointed at his head.

A voice on the tape threatened to execute one of the hostages the following day unless negotiations got under way.

Kidnappers in Iraq have repeatedly dressed hostages in orange before killing them, usually by beheading. The clothing mimics the orange jumpsuits worn by prisoners in US detention facilities, including Muslim inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed said the Indian envoy to Oman was being sent to Baghdad to help with negotiations. — Reuters

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