M A I N   N E W S

Hostages may be freed by Sunday
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 6
The three Indians held hostage in Iraq since July 21 may be released either tomorrow night or by Sunday morning.

Information to this effect has been given to the Government of India today by Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company (KGL), the employers of the seven hostages in Iraq, top sources told The Tribune.

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed, in his conversation with this correspondent tonight, corroborated this when he said: “Indications are that the painful ordeal of the hostages would soon come to a happy conclusion.”

Mr Ahamed said the Indian embassies in Baghdad and Kuwait had informed that the first-ever face-to-face meeting between KGL’s representative and the hostages’ negotiator Sheikh Hashim al-Dulaimi for securing the hostages’ release, which was scheduled to take place on August 4, would now take place in Baghdad tomorrow.

Sources said the crucial KGL-Dulaimi meeting would be the “final round” to wrap up the negotiations and the hostages could be released either tomorrow night itself or the following day. This meeting is likely to take place in the Egyptian embassy in Baghdad.

Though there have been no substantive talks between Sheikh Dulaimi and M/s KGL for the last three days, the two sides have been having telephonic negotiations in this period.

The Tribune understands that the final deal for the hostages’ release has been clinched and KGL has agreed to meet all terms and conditions of the kidnappers as conveyed through the mediator.

At the same time, the sources sounded a note of caution and said the government was keeping its fingers crossed because similar optimism had prevailed twice earlier, only to end up in disappointment.

“Tomorrow is the most critical day in the past 16 days of this crisis. We hope that there is no let down this time by the two parties.

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