German government still found no contact with kidnappers of two German engineers in Iraq

The government said Friday it still has not established contact with the kidnappers who took two German engineers hostage in Iraq last week and described the situation as "very serious." Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier taped an appeal to the hostage-takers to release the pair that was to be broadcast by Arabic language Al-Jazeera television later in the day. It is the second videotaped appeal by the Germans in an effort to secure the safe release of Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich after their mothers recorded an impassioned plea on Thursday.

Al-Jazeera broadcast a tape of the hostages sitting in front of several masked gunmen late Tuesday. A producer at the station said the kidnappers threatened to kill the Germans if their demands were not met within 72 hours.

Government spokesman Thomas Steg said German officials had "no new information" on the fate of the hostages.

Authorities were making "intensive efforts to make contact and do everything so that the hostages are set free soon," Steg said at a news conference. The situation was "very serious and difficult," he said.

German officials have declined to comment on when exactly the kidnappers' ultimatum runs out.

According to Al-Jazeera, the kidnappers demanded that Germany close its embassy in Baghdad and stop cooperating with the Iraqi government.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted Germany will not be "blackmailed." Officials refuse to discuss the issue of ransom money.

Instead, Germans are trying to win the release of the two men through candlelight vigils, peaceful demonstrations and appeals.

President Horst Koehler called on the kidnappers to free the Germans, while five leading German business organizations issued their own appeal to the people of Iraq to pressure the kidnappers to set them free.

The joint statement pointed out that German companies, like the one where Nitzschke and Braeunlich are employed, are engaged in Iraq to restore water, electricity and health services.

"In order to continue, we need to know that our employees are safe in Iraq ," it said. "Only a positive resolution of the kidnapping can give us this knowledge."

The engineers were abducted Jan. 24 on their way to work in an Iraqi-owned factory in the northern industrial city of Beiji , reports the AP.


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