AMS: US actions foiling hostage deal

Iraq's influential Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) has accused the US army of hampering efforts to secure the release of two abducted French journalists.

    France is trying to secure the release of its journalists

    Muhammad Ayash al-Kubaisi, the representative of AMS abroad, said on Friday, "We are under the impression that the American forces do not want the hostages to be freed, because each time we get near a solution, these forces push for a military escalation."

    "We believe these forces have political aims, seeking to create a chaotic situation which does not contribute to progress," al-Kubaisi told AFP while on a visit to Qatar on Friday.

    The release of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were seized with their Syrian driver, Muhammad al-Jundi, "needs a secure atmosphere, which has not been the case since we had the first positive signs for their release".

    Badly timed

    Al-Kubaisi referred to US bombardment earlier this month of the Latifiya region, "once they learnt that the two French hostages were there", souring the atmosphere and "blocking the path to a settlement that was under way".

    It  is nearly a month since the
    two Frenchmen went missing

    Radio France Internationale correspondent Chesnot and Le Figaro reporter Georges Malbrunot were snatched in Latifiya, south of Baghdad, by the Islamic Army in Iraq, which has claimed the murder of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni.

    "I was there (in Latifiya) and I saw the situation. Residents saw (internationally) banned bombs falling on the heads of their children," said al-Kubaisi.

    "Nobody can respond to our calls when the US forces are holding entire towns hostage and do not want to halt their bombardment," said al-Kubaisi, who added that he was unsure of the journalists' current whereabouts.

    Quid pro quo

    The AMS official urged France to press for the release of thousands of Iraqi men and women held by US and Iraqi authorities.

    "That would have a positive impact on the kidnappers and make them feel they (the Iraqis) have not been abandoned or that the whole world is only interested in the foreign hostages," he said.

    France's Defence Minister Michele Alliot Marie said on Thursday she had information which led her to believe that the French hostages held for nearly a month were still alive.

    "We have had information which allow us to think that, without having concrete proof, that our hostages are alive, in good health and safe," she told the daily Le Parisien.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Take a tour through East and West Jerusalem to see the difference in quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians.

    Stories from the sex trade

    Stories from the sex trade

    Dutch sex workers, pimps and johns share their stories.

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    As the stigma associated with being childless persists, some elderly women in India risk it all to become mothers.