After the talks at the Umm al-Qura mosque in west Baghdad on Wednesday, Ambassador Bernard Bajolet thanked the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) for condemning the abduction "extremely forcefully, clearly and without ambiguity".

Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot were abducted by a group demanding Paris rescind a ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves in French public schools.

The pair and their Syrian driver were kidnapped in Najaf on 20 August.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the AMS made a televised appeal to the hostage-takers to free the Frenchmen, saying the kidnapping was not the correct way to fight the French law.

Qatar talks

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier arrived in Qatar on Wednesday as part of ongoing efforts to secure the release of the two journalists.

Chesnot (L) and Malbrunot were
kidnapped on their way to Najaf

In a joint press conference in Doha with his Qatari counterpart Shaikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al-Thani, the French minister expressed the gratitude of the French people over "the solidarity of the Islamic states and peoples concerning the abduction of the two reporters".

He also urged all Islamic parties and organisations to make further efforts to secure the release of the two men.

 

For his part, the Qatari Foreign Minister warned against squandering the sympathy of some countries towards Iraq, through the abduction of journalists or threatening their lives.

 

Shaikh Hamad bin Jassem also called for "respect" for France's political system and laws.

 
"Whether we agree or not, we must respect the French decision on this issue," Shaikh Hamad said of the French headscarf law, which also applies to other "conspicuous" religious insignia.

 

Arab condemnations

 

The Qatari foreign minister added his country was "exerting efforts" to help free the hostages but was not actually engaged in a "mediation."

"Whether we agree or not, we must respect the French decision on this issue"

Shaikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al-Thani,
Qatari foreign minister

The kidnappings have been widely criticised in the Arab world.

On Wednesday, the Arab People's Campaign for the Support of Iraq added its voice to the condemnations.

In a statement, it called for the release of the journalists, and referred to the strong relations between France and the Arab world, and the role of the French media in suppprting Arabs and Muslims.

The Lebanon-based group also warned that such kidnappings distort the image of the Iraqi resistance.