Russia hopes to contact kidnappers in Iraq

Moscow supports having an open discussion about the composition of the future interim government of Iraq after appropriate recommendations are prepared, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's acting foreign minister, said after returning from the United States on Monday.

According to him, Lakhdar Brahimi, a special representative of the UN secretary general, who is presently in Iraq, should formulate his recommendations on the future Iraqi government by the end of May.

"As soon as these recommendations are ready, they need to be discussed openly so that before the UN Security Council approves them there is a clear idea of how well they satisfy the interests of the general Iraqi population and if the future interim Iraqi government would be legitimate in the eyes of the world community," he said.

"It would be expedient if the main forces in Iraq, representatives of Iraq's neighbors, the Arab League and representatives of the UN Security Council participate in the discussion of these recommendations," he said.

The acting minister also pointed out: "taking into consideration the difficult situation in Iraq and the incomplete Brahimi mission, the question of how concretely further work on his recommendations will be organized still remains open."

Kofi Annan said that Security Council members should jointly decide how to make this work transparent.

"We have agreed with Annan to maintain contacts and specially discuss the situation as soon as the Brahimi recommendations are made," Mr. Lavrov said.

Answering questions from reporters, Mr. Lavrov said that Russia hopes to establish contact with the kidnappers of the Russians in Iraq.

"The steps we are taking presuppose contacting the organizers of the capture of the hostages and those who are holding them now," Mr. Lavrov said.

Commenting on the video that some television channels aired that yesterday and that shows that the Russians are being held by a terrorist organization, Mr. Lavrov said: "It follows from this that they are alive. We think that this is rather reliable information."

"We are taking appropriate steps jointly with those who can in any way contact the kidnappers," he said. "We maintain contacts with the coalition forces, with the provisional Iraqi Governing Council and also with political and religious organizations in Iraq."

According to Mr. Lavrov, "one of the results of these contacts was statements by a number of religious leaders and the heads of religious associations calling on those who took the hostages to free them in order to not discredit the Iraqi people and not to blame Russians for the current situation."

On May 10 in the outskirts of Baghdad, unidentified individuals fired at a car containing three Russian specialists. Alexei Konorev was killed and Aleksandr Gordiyenko and Andrei Meshcheryakov were taken hostage.

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