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February 00, 2002
1152 IST

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US demands reporter's immediate release, says no negotiations

T V Parasuram in Washington

The United States has called for unconditional release of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and ruled out negotiations with his kidnappers, saying the demands of the Pakistani group holding him hostage could not be met.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher demanded immediate and unconditional release of Pearl, missing since January 23 from Karachi after he went to interview an Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan.

He said US law enforcement officers were assisting the Pakistani police in the investigations.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell made it clear that there would be no negotiations with the kidnappers.

"The demands that the kidnappers have placed are not demands that we can meet or deal with or get into a negotiation about," Powell said at a joint appearance with King Abdullah of Jordan.

An unknown group, calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The group has demanded better treatment for prisoners seized in the Afghan war and held in the US camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the return of any Pakistani nationals among them to face trial in Pakistan. They have also warned all US journalists to leave the country.

Powell said: "We are deeply concerned about his (Pearl's) safety and our hearts go out to his family. And I know that his colleagues at Wall Street Journal are deeply concerned."

Powell said the US was doing everything it can to try to locate the reporter and rescue him. "I have spoken to President Musharraf in Pakistan about the situation and I know that he is doing everything that he can."

The detainees at Guantanamo, he said, are being treated humanely. People have been down there from various countries and various organisations to see them and can provide witness to this fact.

"And we are treating them in accordance with international norms and all of the agreements we are party to," Powell added.

RELATED REPORT:
Key suspect surrenders, denies involvement
India rejects Pak charge
Another suspect found dead

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