Germany calls on for release of hostages in Iraq and entitles situation serious

The government appealed Wednesday to kidnappers in Iraq to release two German engineers and said the situation was "serious" after a reported threat to kill the hostages unless Germany cuts ties with Iraq.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the government was "shocked" by a video aired Tuesday by Al-Jazeera television showing the Germans, Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich.

"We appeal again to those responsible to let the two Germans go and return to their families," Steinmeier told reporters after discussing the hostage crisis with Cabinet colleagues.

Al-Jazeera said the kidnappers demanded Germany close its embassy in Baghdad and stop cooperating with the Iraqi government. A producer at the station said the kidnappers threatened to kill the hostages if their demands were not met within 72 hours.

Steinmeier wouldn't say when that period would run out or if German officials had established contact with the kidnappers.

"We have to proceed very carefully here. In our view, the situation is becoming serious," Steinmeier said. "We have to do what is possible so that the hostages are soon in safety."

The last tape showing the Germans appeared on Jan. 27 on Al-Jazeera and was dated Jan. 24, the day they were abducted in the northern industrial city of Beiji.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said later Wednesday that it was still not clear whether the kidnappers were politically motivated or primarily seeking a ransom. A prominent lawmaker said Berlin must not give in to the kidnappers' public demands. While the government has to consider all the options, "it cannot allow itself to be blackmailed," Ruprecht Polenz said in the B.Z. newspaper. "Our political goal must remain working toward a stable Iraq", reports the AP.


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