The Indonesian Foreign Ministry in Jakarta said the pair, working for the private Metro TV station, were in a rented car in Ramadi on Tuesday when they were last heard from.

 

"We are very worried about our staff. Hopefully they are just uncontactable at the moment, but we cannot rule out the fact that they may have been kidnapped," Don Bosco, Metro TV's news director told Aljazeera.net.

 

Foreign affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said in Jarkarta: "We have received information from the owner of a car rented by two journalists from Metro TV that on 15 February their vehicle heading for Ramadi was halted by an armed group. 

 

"We do not want to use the word kidnapped or that they have been held hostage at the moment," he said, adding that the two had been "intercepted".

 

Budiyanto had gone to Iraq for
Metro TV to cover Ashura 

"We've lost contact with them and we are trying to ascertain their whereabouts and conditions at the moment through our staff in Amman," Natalegawa said.

 

Bosco told Aljazeera.net that Meutya Hafid, 26, and cameraman Budiyanto, 35, were in Iraq to report on the Muslim commemoration of Ashura, which is to culminate on Saturday.

 

"If they have been kidnapped, we are pleading to Aljazeera to appeal for their release. We cannot think of any reason why they may have been seized," Bosco said.

 

"Indonesia is a Muslim state like Iraq, so there can be no political reason."

 

Poor phone reception

 

The journalists did not inform the
Baghdad embassy of their arrival

Hafid is reported to have told her employers at Metro TV, Indonesia's only 24-hour news broadcaster, that she may be uncontactable for a few days as her phone reception was poor.

 

Hafid and Budiyanto did not tell the embassy in Baghdad that they were coming, said the Baghdad embassy source.

 

Ramadi, 110km west of Baghdad, has been the scene of frequent clashes between US forces, their Iraqi allies and fighters.

 

Indonesians in Iraq

 

Two Indonesian women were seized in September 2004 by an Iraqi group saying said it would release them only if Jakarta freed Muslim cleric Abu Bakr Bashir.

 

An Indonesian engineer was shot dead in an ambush in the northern Iraq city of Mosul last August.

 

It is unclear how many Indonesians are working in Iraq, but they are believed to be fewer than nationals from other Asian countries such as the Philippines and India.

 

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been a staunch critic of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.