Belfast Telegraph

Ahern is told Iraq hostage Hassan may be in Fallujah

By Senan Molony
11 November 2004

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern has been given reports indicating that Irish Iraq hostage Margaret Hassan is within the besieged city of Fallujah.

Mr Ahern says these reports are worrying.

However, his department holds officially that it does not have enough intelligence to say where exactly the hostage might be held captive.

The family of Mrs Hassan is in contact every day with the department's liaison staff.

They are understood to have relayed their personal anxiety that the aggressive American action against the city of Fallujah is putting Mrs Hassan's life seriously at risk.

Meanwhile, Iveagh House is maintaining a continuing silence over the case of Afghan kidnap victim Annetta Flanigan, who is from Armagh.

It is understood the United Nations has indicated to the authorities here that efforts to secure the freeing of the three abducted UN workers, including Ms Flanigan, are proceeding on a softly, softly basis.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs has noted that one of the hostages taken in Kabul 13 days ago, Kosovar Shqipe Hebibi, was allowed to make a phone call to her home town of Pristina.

In the call, Ms Hebibi said she was feeling well and that she hoped to come home soon.

The development has raised hopes on behalf of Ms Flanigan and fellow detainee, Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan.

The three are being held by a Taliban splinter group which calls itself Jaish al-Muslimeen, the Army of Muslims.

Minister Ahern is meanwhile due to fly to Rome on Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of Irish diplomatic relations with the Vatican city state.

The Vatican was recognised as the world's smallest sovereign state by the Lateran Treaty of 1929 with the regime of Benito Mussolini.

Mr Ahern will be in Rome with a number of members of the Irish hierarchy for ceremonies to mark the anniversary.

Events will include a gathering in the Irish College.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs also said he was "pushing an open door" in negotiations for the funding of new Irish embassies in some of the ten accession countries which joined the EU in May this year during Ireland's presidency of the EU.

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