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Brown facing Iraq hostage dilemma

Apologies if posted elsewhere
pa.press.net - 27.02.2008 07:59
Brown facing Iraq hostage dilemma
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is facing a double headache over Iraq.

He has received an appeal for help from five Britons held hostage for nine months, and a demand from the Information Commissioner to release the minutes of crucial Cabinet meetings held in the run-up to the war there.

A clip of one of the five Britons, kidnapped in Baghdad on May 29, was broadcast by Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, which said it came from a Shia group.

The bearded man, who seemed in good health, said: "My name is Peter Moore, I have been held here for nearly eight months now." He asked Mr Brown to free nine Iraqis in exchange for their release.

The five, who have not been officially named, were seized by about 40 gunmen wearing police uniforms at the Iraqi Finance Ministry.

At the time Iraqi officials blamed the Mahdi Army, the militia controlled by the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. But al-Sadr's followers have denied responsibility and suspicion has fallen on Mahdi Army splinter groups, which the US believes are controlled by Iran.

In a previous video, broadcast by Al-Arabiya on December 4, the kidnappers threatened to kill the men unless British troops were pulled out of Iraq within 10 days.

Meanwhile, the Government is considering whether to appeal against an unprecedented ruling ordering it to release the minutes of Cabinet meetings held in the run-up to the war.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said the papers should be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act because of the "gravity and controversial nature" of the discussions involved.

It is the first time the commissioner has ordered the release of Cabinet minutes, which are normally retained for at least 30 years. He insisted his ruling would not set a "dangerous precedent" for further such Cabinet releases, but MPs warned it would inevitably lead to demands for more information. Ministers have five weeks to decide whether to publish the papers or to lodge an appeal with the Information Tribunal.
I'm sure Phil Shiner and his cohorts will be only too glad to protect the human rights of the kidnappers should they be given the good news by SF.

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