French Hostage In Iraq "Alive" Print E-mail
French Hostage In Iraq "Alive"
02/04/2005 10:54 AM
France has proof that a French journalist and her driver are still alive nearly three months after they were taken hostage in Iraq, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has said.

"We have proof they are alive," Barnier said in a television interview recorded by France 2 television on Wednesday and released to other news organisations on Friday.

He gave no other details of the condition of Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi driver, Hussein Hanun al-Saadi, and did not say what proof the government had that they were alive.

"In an affair that is quite complicated, in a country that is also dangerous, I think of just one thing - their safety and the moment when both will be out of where they are now," Barnier told France 2, which will broadcast the interview on Sunday.

"For this reason we are obliged to be discreet."

Aubenas works for French newspaper Liberation. She and her driver were taken hostage after leaving their Baghdad hotel on January 5.

Little is known about their fate since then, but Iraqi insurgents released video footage of Aubenas on March 1. Looking distraught and fragile, she made a desperate appeal for help.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told parliament on March 29 that the government had "reassuring news" about the two hostages but gave no details. "Caution remains our rule," Raffarin added.

France had hoped its opposition to the US-led war in Iraq would help it secure her release, as it did in the case of two French journalists freed in December after four months held hostage by Iraqi militants.

But concern is growing in France that its firm line on Syria after last month's killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri may hinder its efforts. Syria has denied any involvement in Hariri's killing.

Liberation and Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have launched a campaign to keep the hostages in the public eye.

RSF said on Friday it would mount a similar campaign on behalf of three Romanian reporters kidnapped in Iraq on Monday.

"We will not stay silent," Robert Menard, secretary general of RSF, told a news conference.

More than 150 foreigners have been seized in Iraq over the past year. Most were freed after negotiations or ransom but about a third were killed. Many more Iraqis have been abducted.
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