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MEA official to negotiate in Baghdad

Source: PTI
July 30, 2004 22:14 IST
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The government on Friday night decided to depute a senior external affairs ministry official to the Indian embassy in Baghdad to assist in efforts to seek the release of the three Indians held hostage by militants.

After a five-hour meeting of the Crisis Management Group headed by him to deal with the issue, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said that the government has decided that Indian nationals would not travel to Iraq through the borders of Kuwait and Jordan.

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"The Protector of Emigrants, while giving clearance for travel to Kuwait and Jordan, will endorse in the passports of applicants, a stamp that the passport is not valid for travel to Iraq," the minister said.

He said the government would also approach the governments of Kuwait and Jordan to assist in imposing this ban. "This measure is being taken temporarily in view of the prevailing security situation in Iraq and is motivate by our concern for the safety and security of our nationals," Ahamed said.

Asked about reports that the deadline given by the kidnappers, which ended on Friday night, had been indefinitely extended, he said, "We have seen reports that the hostage takers have extended the deadline. Government would welcome an authentic confirmation of the news."

The minister said the government had seen a statement of the current negotiator, Sheikh Hizham Al Dulaimi, talking about his efforts to see a happy ending to the incident "out of humanitarian consideration".

Dulaimi reportedly said that he would meet officials of Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company, for which the Indians worked, on Saturday to conduct further negotiations. "If this is true, this is a welcome and hopeful development," Ahamed said.

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