གཟའ་ཟླ་བ། ༢༠༢༤/༠༤/༢༢

Britain Seeks Contact With Iraq Kidnappers

Britain wants to hear from the kidnappers of four Western hostages in Iraq after the abductors delayed a threat to kill their captives.

The British appeal has been issued by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who says his government awaits contact from the kidnappers.

"If the kidnappers want to get in touch with us, we want to hear what they have to say," he said. "We have people in Iraq itself and in the region, and they are ready to hear from the kidnappers."

Among the four Western captives is Norman Kember, a 74-year-old British citizen. The other hostages include an American and two Canadians. They are held by a group calling itself Swords of Truth.

Mr. Straw is stressing that all four men went to Iraq on a peace mission.

"Norman Kember and his colleagues are campaigners for peace, dedicated to help others. We ask for their release," said Mr. Straw. "We remain in close touch with Mrs. Kember, and it's hard to imagine the terrible distress that Mr. Kember's family are suffering throughout this ordeal. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them."

Earlier, Swords of Truth released a video to international media outlets containing a message from Mr. Kember to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "I'm a Christian peacemaker," said Mr. Kember. "I'm a friend of Iraq I have been opposed to this war, Mr. Blair's war, since the very beginning. I have asked Mr. Blair, the British government and the British people to work both for my release and for the release of the Iraqi people from oppression."

Mr. Kember and another hostage, identified as American Quaker Tom Fox, appear in the video dressed in orange jump suits. They were blindfolded and shackled.

Swords of Truth had threatened to kill the hostages on Thursday unless Iraqi prisoners were released. Now, the deadline has been extended until Saturday.

The extension followed an appeal by Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada, who is detained in Britain for suspected links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Abu Qatada said the hostages should not be punished because of the American and British involvement in Iraq. His remarks, made with permission of the British government, were broadcast on pan-Arab television networks Wednesday.