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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

BBC NEWS | Europe | Italy 'paid $1m to free hostages'

BBC NEWS | Europe | Italy 'paid $1m to free hostages': "Italy 'paid $1m to free hostages'
A senior Italian politician says he believes a ransom of $1m or more was paid for the release of two female Italian aid workers kidnapped in Iraq.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said no money was paid.
But Gustavo Selva, head of the Italian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the denial was purely 'official'.
Meanwhile, British hostage Ken Bigley has appeared in a new video aired by Arabic TV channel Al-Jazeera, accusing Tony Blair of ignoring his plight.
Squatting down in a cage and dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Mr Bigley said his captors did not want to kill him, and he accused the UK prime minister of 'lying'.
The hardline group which seized Mr Bigley nearly two weeks ago, the Tawhid and Jihad group, beheaded two Americans kidnapped with him.
Italian controversy
Allegations of an Italian ransom, first made in a Kuwaiti newspaper, have been widely reported in Italy.
The government has denied this but, I dare to say, this is an official denial which is part of a government's obligations so as not to give the impression that it has given in to blackmail
Gustavo Selva
Italian politician


The BBC's Guto Harri in Rome says Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has fuelled the rumours by talking of 'a difficult choice which had to be made'.
Mr Selva, a member of the Northern League, one of the parties in Italy's governing coalition, told French radio: 'The young women's life was the most important thing.
'In principle, one should not give in to blackmail, but this time I think we had to give in - even though this opens a dangerous path because it is obvious that both for political or cri"

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