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Hostage crisis will be resolved soon, says Natwar Singh

NEW DELHI, JULY 24. The Government today used Arab television channels to issue an appeal for the safe return of the three Indians held hostage in Iraq while continuing its efforts on various fronts to secure their early release. The appeal — reiterating India's long-standing solidarity with the Iraqi people — was aired on international television networks beaming into the Gulf this evening and was apparently picked by the Iraqi national broadcaster soon after.

Reluctant to reveal the various channels that were being tapped to secure the early and safe release of the hostages, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials said the Government was in constant touch with the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait. The first word of optimism was sounded by the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, himself who in a brief interaction with mediapersons said: "It seems that this issue will be resolved soon."

Mr. Natwar Singh — who was away in Islamabad when the hostage crisis began — met the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today to discuss the situation. He also discussed the issue with the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, Sonia Gandhi.

The matter apparently came up for discussion at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti company which had employed the three Indians and four other nationals taken hostage on Wednesday evening by the `Holders of the Black Banners' has informed the Government that it was "negotiating" with the kidnappers to free its employees as soon as possible.

According to the MEA spokesman, the Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company (KGL) has informed the Government that it was "ready to take any measure to ensure the release of the hostages."

In a statement issued by the KGL Chairman and Managing Director, Saeed Dashti, it was clarified that the company has no presence whatsoever in Iraq and that it was only transporting material and equipment urgently needed by the Iraqi people.

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