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Caged Bigley calls Blair liar

Dubai/London, Sept. 29 (Reuters): A British hostage in Iraq appealed to Tony Blair to help free him in a new videotape aired today that left his family relieved Kenneth Bigley was alive but appalled to see him caged and in distress.

Chained and squatting in a bare wire cell, Bigley urged the Prime Minister to save his life by meeting his captors' demands to release Iraqi women and complained Blair had failed to help.

'Tony Blair is a liar. He doesn't care about me. I'm just one person,' said Bigley, whose two American colleagues were beheaded on video last week by the al Qaida-linked group which snatched the three men from their Baghdad home two weeks ago.

'My captors don't want to kill me,' he added in the film, broadcast by Qatar-based al Jazeera television, which also quoted him as complaining that Blair was refusing to negotiate.

The 62-year-old Bigley, who wore an orange jumpsuit of the kind widely associated with Muslim suspects held by US troops at Guantanamo Bay, had last appeared in a videotape on September 22, also pleading with Blair to save his life. Americans Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley were dressed in similar clothes when they were shown being killed.

The fresh pressure on Blair ' who insists he is doing all he can while refusing to negotiate on the kidnappers' demands ' came as he sought to move on from Iraq and focus on domestic policy at this week's annual conference of his Labour Party. The shocking images of Bigley also contrasted with the jubilation in Italy where two aid workers were freed yesterday.

The hostage's brother Paul Bigley, who is acting as a spokesman for the family, said it was a relief to see the building engineer alive but painful to see him in such a state. 'It's absolutely appalling. There's no other word for it ' heart-wrenching. This is the age of technology doing its best,' he told the BBC.

'They've had a worldwide coverage that nobody, not any publicity agent, could dream of. I hope they appreciate that fact and eventually release Ken as a reward for that publicity.'

A black banner bearing the name of his captors, the Tawhid and Jihad Group, hung on the wall above the cage in the new film. No militants appeared in the clips.

Led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the group has said Bigley will meet the same fate as the Americans if its demands are not met. They have, however, set no deadline.

London and Washington have said they will not negotiate ' and the US says it holds only two women in Iraq, both top weapons scientists from the days of Saddam Hussein.

Paul Bigley also told Sky television the family would not show the latest video to the captive's 86-year-old mother for fear of upsetting her. Lily Bigley, who recorded a video appeal to the kidnappers last week, is in hospital in Liverpool being treated for stress related to the ordeal.

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