France says does not pay ransoms, as hostages released

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Foreign Minister Alain Juppe insisted Wednesday that France does not pay ransoms for hostages, as questions were asked about the release of two journalists held in Afghanistan by insurgents.

Juppe said Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai had helped Paris secure the return of Stephane Taponier et Herve Ghesquiere, who had been captured by Taliban rebels 18 months earlier in the restive province of Kapisa.

"France does not pay ransoms," Juppe told reporters, when asked whether Paris had cut some kind of a deal with the hostage-takers.

"They were freed this afternoon and they've reached the French embassy. They are in good health, they'll be back on French soil overnight and will come to Paris tomorrow," he said, in a briefing at the ministry.

Juppe also cleared up confusion over the fate of two Afghans who had been captured with the French crew when they were ambushed on a road east of Kabul as their tried to cover the guerrilla war being fought in the region.

Earlier, the French presidency announced that Taponier, Ghesquiere and their Afghan interpreter Reza Din had been freed, without referring to the fate of two more Afghans who accompanied the party.

"The two other helpers were freed some time ago, but this was not made public," Juppe explained, citing the need for secrecy in resolving hostage situations.

© 2011 AFP

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