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Annan Urges Immediate Release Of Hostages In Iraq

Annan Urges 'Immediate And Unconditional' Release Of All Hostages In Iraq

Amid mounting reports of hostage-taking in Iraq, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today reiterated his call for the "immediate and unconditional" release of all those who have been abducted.

"The Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the fate of all civilians held hostage," his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, told journalists in New York.

"The abductions of two French journalists and two Italian humanitarian aid workers and their Iraqi colleagues are but the latest incidents in a tragic pattern of violations committed against innocent civilians in Iraq," he added in a statement.

The statement appealed "for respect, at all times, for the fundamental principals of human rights and dignity."

Meanwhile, the Security Council was briefed today on the work of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq (UNMOVIC), which has in recent months continued to investigate the discovery of Iraqi weapons-related items in Jordan, Turkey and the Netherlands.

UNMOVIC has reported that parts of the Al Samoud 2 missile - proscribed under international sanctions and previously tagged by UN inspectors - had turned up in scrapyards outside of Iraq, raising questions about the ability of the international community to track the country's clandestine weapons schemes.

In another development, Mr. Eckhard said the senior UN envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, will brief the Security Council on 14 September.

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