France says no demand received from Niger hostage-takers
France has not received any demand from the Al-Qaeda-linked kidnappers of a Frenchman held in Niger but takes their threat to kill the hostage very seriously, the French foreign ministry said Tuesday.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) captured 78-year-old Michel Germaneau in northern Niger on April 19 and on Sunday released a message threatening to kill him, according to the US monitoring agency SITE.
"The French authorities have not to this day received any demand, any claim from the kidnappers," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
"We have seen the ultimatum on the website a few days ago. This ultimatum is worrisome and we take it very seriously," he added.
Valero declined to specify whether the French government was in contact with the kidnappers but stressed that no demand had been presented to Paris.
AQIM, which in a previous message demanded a prisoner exchange, said France faced a 15-day deadline starting from Monday to meet their demands.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy voiced what he called "burning concern" for Germaneau, during a television interview on Monday and discussed the hostage crisis with the leaders of Niger, Mali and Mauritania.
The three leaders ate lunch hosted by the Elysee palace ahead of Wednesday's Bastille Day celebrations, which this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of 14 African countries.
Germaneau was a member of the aid group Enmilal working in northern Niger and is believed to have been taken to Mali.
© 2010 AFP