De Villepin unable to confirm pledge on French hostages

20th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 19 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Sunday he could not confirm the authenticity of a statement attributed to the Islamic Army in Iraq saying it was releasing two French hostages, but Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin expressed optimism.

PARIS, Sept 19 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Sunday he could not confirm the authenticity of a statement attributed to the Islamic Army in Iraq saying it was releasing two French hostages, but Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin expressed optimism.  

The statement, received in an e-mail Saturday by the London-based Islamic Observatory, said the army had "ended the detention of the two French hostages - who are now carrying out their work under an agreement" with their kidnappers that they would cover the activities of the "resistance".  

"I am unable to confirm at this point in time the authenticity" of the statement, de Villepin said on Europe 1 radio.  

"They are hostages and they are in the hands of their kidnappers, whatever any statements say, that is the reality," he said.  

But he added that "even if all this must be treated very cautiously, the indications that we have, and which tally, are that our compatriots are alive."  

Raffarin for his part said he was "mildly optimistic" at the outcome of the hostage crisis.   "I think that today our first hypothesis must be a favourable outcome, but let us remain cautions. ... We have information that has not been authenticated 100 percent but which appears more trustworthy than previous information, and so we are mildly optimistic," he said on French television.   

Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot were seized along with their Syrian driver, Mohammed al-Jundi, on August 20 south of Baghdad. The Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility for their abduction.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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