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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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M A I N   N E W S

Hostages are safe
Freedom expected in a day or two
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
The release of Indian hostages in Iraq would take at least another day, if not more, as the negotiating process between the captors and the Kuwaiti employers of the captives had reached “a delicate stage” this evening and only a few points remained to be sorted out between the two sides, top sources in the government told The Tribune.

The most important thing that the Government of India was told today was that the hostages were not only safe but also at a safe place in Iraq.

“The negotiating process is continuing. What is holding up, we don’t know. What we know is the intentions of both the sides: that both the sides want to resolve the crisis peacefully,” the sources said as the Iraq hostage crisis entered the 12th day today.

Significantly, there was no word from the captors— “Islamic Secret Army — The Holders of Black Banners” for the past 24 hours which key sources here take as a positive development because it suggested that there was no fresh deadline from them.

“The mood is definitely positive. Having reached thus far, the process is not going to be reversed. We have reached a stage of very positive negotiations over the past 11 days and all the parties concerned have moved beyond their original positions and accommodated each other’s interests to a substantive extent. That gives optimism,” a key official in the government said.

On the role of the captors’ negotiator Sheikh Hashim Dulaimi, the sources said he retained the captors’ “total confidence” and the Sheikh continued to negotiate on behalf of “Black Banners”.

Sheikh Dulaimi has confirmed to KGL that the hostages were in good condition, Mr E. Ahamed, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement tonight.

“We are still awaiting fresh developments... We have to remain patient and hope for a positive outcome to the currently ongoing process,” Mr Ahamed said.

The Crisis Management Group which Mr Ahamed heads, has been meeting almost continuously since July 22, soon after news was received about Indian nationals having been taken hostage.

The Cabinet Secretary has also been holding a parallel set of inter-ministerial meetings virtually every day to take stock of a rapidly changing situation and to support the Crisis Management Group with appropriate decisions.

“We are at a sensitive stage in the evolution of this crisis and must treat changing developments with caution and calm,” Mr Ahamed said.

The Ministry of External Affairs was informed by its embassies in Baghdad and Kuwait that contact had been maintained between Sheikh Al-Dulaimi and the KGL Company and negotiations were continuing this morning.

The Crisis Management Group today held two brainstorming sessions — one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Mr Ahamed read out a statement after the morning meeting of the CMG in which he stressed the need for remaining patient. “We remain hopeful that these negotiations will come to a successful conclusion but we have to remain patient. The Government is continuing with all its efforts to seek the early release of the hostages and their safe return. The outlook remains positive.”

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Footage of 4 Jordanian hostages aired

Dubai, August 2
An Arabic TV station today aired a footage of what it said were four Jordanian truck drivers, who were taken hostage on Tuesday in Iraq, appealing to the Jordanian government to help secure their release. The four, wearing T-shirts or open-neck shirts, were shown on Dubai Television seated on a rug in a whitewashed room.

“I hope the government will consider us as Jordanian citizens and take care of us as much as possible,” said one. The group holding the four hostages calls itself the Death Squad of Iraqi Resistance. — Reuters

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