The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mediator hope for hostages

Aug. 3: The employer of the truck drivers held hostage in Iraq today expressed its willingness to send a new negotiator even as the abductors hinted that the talks door was not closed.

Indicating a souring of relations with an Iraqi mediator, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Co. said it wanted Sheikh Hisham al-Dulami to “show total seriousness”.

The Iraqi tribal chief had announced on Sunday that contact with the abductors had snapped because KGL was not cooperating with him.

“We have no problem with sending another representative” at the request of al-Dulami, KGL spokesperson Rana Abu-Zaineh told Associated Press. “But this time, at our conditions because we have shown good intentions and continuous cooperation at the time he is saying we are not cooperative.”

The abductors, a group called the Holders of the Black Banner, today said al-Dulami could continue to negotiate with KGL on their behalf, reports PTI.

“Our current information is that the hostage-takers have reconfirmed that Dulami can continue to negotiate with KGL company on their behalf,” the external affairs ministry said in Delhi after a meeting of the crisis management group, led by junior foreign minister E. Ahmed.

Yesterday, Ahmed had said “we have been informed through our embassies in Baghdad and Kuwait that contact has been maintained between Sheikh Hisham al-Dulami and KGL..., and negotiations are continuing this morning”.

KGL, the employer of the abducted seven — including Indians Antaryami, Tilak Raj and Sukhdev Singh — had sent a negotiator to Baghdad on Saturday. Hours before the talks broke down, the company had announced on Sunday that the truckers would be released within a day.

Admitting that other negotiators were now involved, Abu-Zaineh said: “If he (al-Dulami) wants to show cooperation, let him set a date and an hour for the meeting.”

The foreign ministry said that the Indian embassy in Baghdad had last night issued a media release welcoming the talks between al-Dulami and KGL representatives, and also made a fresh appeal for the earliest possible release of the hostages.

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