A journalist for Australia's SBS Arabic radio service, Majida Abboud-Saab, said on Wednesday that al-Hilali, who is in Iraq to try to free 63-year-old Douglas Wood, had told her he had spoken to a man who said he represented the armed group holding the engineer.

"They said that they were willing to release Douglas Wood," Abboud-Saab told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
   
"They are not placing any conditions on his release. He [al-Hilali] is very convinced and he is very optimistic and he is very happy about the fact that they have agreed to release Douglas."

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said that Wood, who is married to an American, may have been kidnapped up to two days before a two-minute video was delivered to news agencies on 1 May.
   
The group demanded that Australia start withdrawing its troops from Iraq or Wood would be killed.