Italian's release raises hopes for French hostage

6th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 5 (AFP) - France hailed Saturday the release of Italy's Giuliana Sgrena as a "good omen" for its correspondent Florence Aubenas, missing in Iraq for two months and seen only once in a video begging for help.

PARIS, March 5 (AFP) - France hailed Saturday the release of Italy's Giuliana Sgrena as a "good omen" for its correspondent Florence Aubenas, missing in Iraq for two months and seen only once in a video begging for help.

"This gives me a lot of hope and, above all, it gives me great satisfaction to see that things are moving," Benoit Aubenas, the father of Liberation reporter Florence Aubenas, said Saturday.

"I see in this an extremely positive sign toward the upcoming release of Florence and her guide," he said.

Aubenas, who went missing on January 5, has been seen only once since, in a video broadcast on Tuesday in which she begged for help and warned she was in a "bad way".

The French foreign ministry welcomed Sgrena's liberation late Friday and renewed its appeal for the release of the Aubenas and her Iraqi translator Hussein Hanun al-Saadi "as soon as possible," said ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous.

French President Jacques Chirac on Saturday telephoned Aubenas' mother Jacqueline to discuss the situation of the French hostage and give a "message of solidarity," his office said.

Jacqueline Aubenas said the French President had been "very encouraging" and had assured her that "all forces have been mobilised" to achieve the release of her daughter and her translator.

Aubenas also said the release of the Italian journalist was a positive sign.

"I think that it's a positive move and my only wish is that Florence and Hussein will benefit from it as soon as possible," she said.

Serge July, the editor of Aubenas' left-wing daily Liberation, said Sgrena's release was "a good omen for Florence Aubenas."

July said he believed the situation of Florence Aubenas "is relatively simpler" than that of the Italian journalist "because there is not this political constraint as with Italy, which is at the heart of the coalition with the United States" in Iraq.

Both Aubenas' family and newspaper have said they believe she is being held by criminals for ransom.

Sgrena returned home Saturday, hours after US troops wounded her in a shooting incident near Baghdad airport in which an Italian secret agent was killed.

The 56-year-old reporter of the leftist daily Il Manifesto was kidnapped on February 4 by an Iraqi group which called on Rome to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Berlusconi's centre-right government rejected the demand, and used its majority to ensure the Italian Senate voted to extend the mission of Rome's 3,000 troops in Iraq.

Just as Italians took to the streets demanding Sgrena's liberation, France has rallied to see Aubenas freed from her captors. Two French reporters held hostage in Iraq were freed in December.

The foreign editor of Liberation, Francois Sergent, said Saturday that demonstrations played an essential role in leading to journalists' release.

"I know that Florence and Hussein can hear them. These are life insurances, shields that protect them against being forgotten," he said at a meeting with Aubenas' father at the press club of the southern French city of Montpellier.

Robert Menard, the head of Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders, RSF), a Paris-based international journalists' rights group, said Friday he was "extremely happy and moved" by Sgrena's release.

The group on Saturday urged the United Nations to conduct an urgent probe into the shooting of Sgrena's convoy.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article