The news came after direct talks between an Iraqi negotiator and the employer of the seven men, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmad said in New Delhi.

 

The captives, all truck drivers working for Kuwait Gulf Link Co

Ltd (KGL), were captured on 21 July by the previously unknown Islamic Secret Army-Holders of the Black Banners group.

 

The captors said the seven men would be killed unless their

employer pulled out of Iraq.

 

"All indications pointed to a positive outcome to the crisis,"

Ahmad said.

 

"What we have learned so far is that face-to-face negotiations have taken place between [negotiator] Shaikh al-Dulaimi and senior representatives of the KGL company today, as a result of which the way has reportedly been cleared for the release of the hostages," he added.

 

The minister hinted the captured truck drivers - three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian - could be freed on Sunday.

 

"You [the media] have waited for 17 days, please wait for a day," he said.

 

But he urged caution saying: "It must be appreciated that

unless we have authoritative and clear confirmation that the

hostages have been released, we must wait with patience and with hope. 

 

 "What I can confirm, however, is that all indications at this

juncture point to a positive outcome to the crisis. We will keep you informed about any fresh developments."