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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Australia firm over Iraq hostage
Man identified as Australian Douglas Wood on the tape
Mr Wood appealed for coalition troops to leave Iraq

Newspapers across Australia have been reporting in detail on the case of the contractor Douglas Wood who is being held hostage in Iraq.

Pictures of a distressed Mr Wood - grabbed from a videotape released by his kidnappers at the weekend - dominate front pages across the continent.

But the editorials are firm in their support for Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who has vowed not to negotiate with Mr Wood's captors.

Sydney's The Australian acknowledges that "all Australians' hearts go out to Mr Wood and his family, both here and in the US."

There must be no question of ransom and no compromise of our foreign policy
The Australian
But the paper says Mr Howard cannot give in.

"We must not allow our sympathy and concern for a fellow Australian in dire need to compromise our logic or our resolve to complete the work we have started in Iraq.

"The Howard government has done the right thing by sending an expert team to Iraq to attempt to negotiate Mr Wood's release, but there must be no question of ransom and no compromise of our foreign policy," it says.

Melbourne's Herald Sun says the videotape of Mr Wood "brings the Iraqi mess into sharp focus".

But it approves of the Australian government's policy of refusing to negotiate with hostage-takers in Iraq.

"Hard as this stance may seem, to do otherwise would be to encourage more kidnappings," it says.

Moment of dread

The Adelaide daily The Advertiser calls the kidnapping "the moment Australia has been dreading".

The insurgents must be stared down
The Advertiser
Australian political leaders now face "a potentially agonising and gut-wrenching decision", it says.

But the paper is clear about what the decision should be.

"John Howard is right when he says Australia cannot afford to show weakness. The insurgents must be stared down."

"To open formal negotiations with the kidnappers will give them credibility and the confidence to take further hostages and step up their demands," the paper argues.

Its conclusion is stark: "Mr Wood knew the risks when he volunteered to work in Iraq... Tragically, he is now the pawn in a much larger, more complex and potentially deadly game."

'Terrible ordeal'

Reports and news tickers on press websites give the latest updates to the story.

Appeals from Mr Wood's relatives, interviews with his friends, and resumes of his life and work bolster the coverage.

The Sydney Morning Herald runs a message board on its website where readers are invited to communicate with Mr Wood and his family.

I think it is outrageous that so-called 'civilized' governments won't negotiate to save the lives of their countrymen
Sydney Morning Herald message board
"May God be with him", "Douglas we are here to support you, keep strong", and "Stay brave... my heart is with you during this terrible ordeal" are some of the messages of sympathy and support.

But alongside these there are also appeals for action: "Unless this government is utterly bereft of morals, there will be some hasty backroom dealing going on" says one post.

Another participant, calling himself "Bewildered," writes: "I think it is outrageous that so-called 'civilized' governments won't negotiate to save the lives of their countrymen."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




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