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Hostage release sought: Iraqi VP
By Li Dapeng, Jiang Zhuqing, Hu Meidong (China Daily/Xinhua)
Updated: 2005-01-21 02:32

Iraq will exhaust every effort to help eight Chinese citizens abducted in Iraq gain their freedom as soon as possible, Iraqi Interim Government Vice-President Rowsch Nuri Shaways said yesterday.

Shaways said during a meeting with Vice-President Zeng Qinghong that he regrets the crisis and the Iraqi people and government have strongly condemned the militants for holding the Chinese from Fujian Province.

Zeng stressed that Chinese leaders have placed the greatest importance in solving the situation, and said the government and people hope the Iraqi Government will adopt all possible means to assure the safety of the hostages and help them be reunited with their family members at home.

Zeng said the foreign ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Iraq are doing their best to resolve the situation.

Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference expressed same wishes in his meeting with Shaways yesterday.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said the government is working day and night on the hostage issue.

"Every hour, we are in contact with our embassy in Baghdad," Li said.

In Iraq, the Chinese Embassy kept in touch with the Iraq Muslim Presbytery, which helped in the release of seven Chinese hostages last April, expressing hope the organization would again play a key role in seeking the release of the eight now being held.

Chinese hostage Lin Bin's 80-year-old mother is being kept in the dark by her family. She has been looking foward to a reunion in the family's hometown, Hushan Village, Pingtan County, Fujian Province. [newsphoto] 
Chinese officials also visited the Presbytery's chairman, Harih Al-Dhari, urging his assistance in locating the hostages and to appeal to the kidnappers for their release.

Arab TV stations and websites on Wednesday broadcast the stance of the Chinese Government on Iraq and the Iraqi people after a press conference held by the Chinese ambassador Yang Honglin on Tuesday evening.

The pan-Arab al-Jazeera TV channel, which showed a videotape of the eight Chinese being flanked by masked gunmen, also aired an interview with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials.

The kidnappers asked the Chinese Government to make clear its position on Iraq as a condition for the hostages' freedom.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said "for the sake of the hostages' safety, there is nothing new to say."

"But one thing for sure is that related government departments will take all measures to rescue the Chinese citizens,'' he said.

"It is hoped the issue can be resolved as soon as possible and our citizens can be back to the homeland and unify with their families."

Kong said Chinese people always have friendly feelings toward Iraqi people, and the Chinese Government handles Iraq-related issues with a view to defend Iraqi people's fundamental interests.

Reconstruction and election

Zeng added reconstructing Iraq not only relates to the war-torn nation's future but also influences regional stability, and noted China is willing to offer assistance in the effort.

China hopes the upcoming Iraqi election will help maintain independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, Zeng said. Through the election, China hopes a new government that represents the interests of all sectors within the country can be set up.

Shaways said Iraq appreciates China's stance and policies on the Iraqi issue, and hopes to receive additional support from China.

Jia also said Chinese people cherish their friendship with the Iraqi people, and have always sympathized with them.

China will promote co-operation and personnel exchanges with Iraq in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, equality and reciprocity, Jia said.

Victims in April 2004

Life in Pingtan County, Fujian Province is farm from being calm.

Wei Weilong, 28, one of the seven workers who were taken hostage in April 11, 2004 and was released on April 13, is now making a living by making fish balls in Aodong Township.

Wei told reporters that he failed to find a job after he arrived in Iraq. Later, he was kidnapped by local militants, though they did not harm him or the other hostages.

Wei expressed gratitude that the government helped get him back home.

A relative of Xue Yougui, also a hostage released last year with Wei, told reporters that when Xue was kidnapped in Iraq last year, his child was only several-months old then. Now, Xue works as a fisherman.

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