Prime minister says more than 100 people working for release of French reporter

The French government has mobilized a team of more than 100 people to secure the release of a kidnapped reporter in Iraq and has made stable but intermittent contact in the case, the prime minister said Tuesday.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin did not specify with whom officials were communicating, but told parliament that contacts had been established in efforts to free Florence Aubenas.

Aubenas, a veteran reporter for Liberation newspaper, was taken hostage Jan. 5 with her Iraqi guide, Hussein Hanoun. She was last seen leaving her Baghdad hotel.

"As long as the dialogue is established, there is hope," he said, in a brief address to mark World Press Freedom Day. "I want to assure you that all the services of state are mobilized."

He said French officials have "stabilized contacts - but contacts that are on-and-off, long, interrupted by long periods of silence, but re-established every time."

"It's a difficult dialogue in a particularly difficult situation," he said.

Separately, the reporters mother, Jacqueline Aubenas, expressed "great sadness and anguish" about the captivity at a news conference held by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.


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