Kidnapped Mrs Hassan pleads for her life

Kidnapped British aid worker Margaret Hassan pleaded for London to save her life by scrapping a plan to redeploy Britain's troops in Iraq and by pulling them out, as more than a dozen people died in clashes around the country.

"Please help me, please help me, these might be my last hours," a sobbing Hassan said on a tape broadcast by Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera.

"I will die like Mr (Kenneth) Bigley," the British hostage beheaded in Iraq earlier this month, she said.

"Ask Mr Blair to pull the (British) forces out of Iraq and not to bring them to &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Baghdad," she said, referring to Prime Minister Tony Blair who has agreed to Washington's request to redeploy troops from the south to US-controlled areas, reports Turkish Press.

The words of Mrs Hassan, 59, who broke down at the end of the tape, closely echoed those of Mr Bigley just before he was killed. It appeared that she was speaking under pressure and after specific instructions about the sentiments she should utter.

Just before he was killed, Mr Bigley, a British worker, said that he was "very, very close to the end of my life" and urged Mr Blair: "Please, please give them what they require." He had earlier called on the Prime Minister to release women Iraqi prisoners, informs The Age.

Downing Street refused to respond to Mrs Hassan’s statement but Foreign Secretary &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Jack Straw described the video as "extremely distressing" and urged &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Iraqi people to join together and call for her "immediate release".

Mr Caillaux (Al-Jazeera secretary-general) said in his statement: "She is a naturalised Iraqi citizen and always holds the people of Iraq in her heart. Care joins with many of the people whose lives Mrs Hassan has touched over her decades of service in Iraq in reaching out to her captors to appeal to their humanity.

"We call on the people who are holding Mrs Hassan to understand that she is an Iraqi and to release her to her family and the people who love her."

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