Dutch still seeking release of soldiers in Libya

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The Dutch government remained mum Tuesday on its efforts to secure the release of three soldiers held captive in Libya, and refused to comment on reports that it sent a team of negotiators.

"For now, we are doing everything in our power to set them free. It is on a diplomatic level, and that is all for the moment that we can say," defence ministry spokeswoman Marloes Visser told AFP.

The Dutch news agency ANP, quoting sources close to the case, said Dutch diplomats and soldiers charged with negotiating the release of the three captured more than a week ago, arrived in Malta on Tuesday.

"We don't have any comment on all the speculation that is going on in the media," said Visser.

The Dutch foreign ministry also refused to comment.

Two Dutch pilots, one of them a woman, and a loadmaster were taken captive in Sirte in the north of Libya on Sunday, February 27, in a botched attempt to evacuate two civilians by navy helicopter with no backup on board.

Soldiers loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi prevented the Dutch navy Lynx helicopter from taking off with the three Dutch marines and two civilians, a Dutch engineer and one other European, on board.

The civilians were later handed over to the Dutch embassy in Tripoli and sent home.

The Netherlands has conceded that it had no authorisation for the rescue operation.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday that the country was doing its " utmost to get them back... using every diplomatic angle we can use."

Dutch television broadcast images last week, taken of the three by Libyan television, showing them in apparent good health.

© 2011 AFP

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