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Page last updated at 05:01 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Philippines hostage 'wants talks'

US soldier, tank, Jolo, 12 Feb 09
US forces are working with the Philippine military in the south

A Red Cross worker being held hostage in the Philippines, has purportedly called for the government to stop military action in the area.

Andreas Notter apparently told the DZEC radio station that the hostages' situation was "very difficult", and stressed the need for talks.

The rebels have demanded that the military stop operations against them.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has refused comment until it is sure the interview was genuine.

"We are in a very difficult situation," 38 year-old Mr Notter said in a telephone interview.

"It's very difficult to understand why it's taking the government so long to at least stop military operations until the negotiation can start," he said.

Pressure

Mr Notter said the military operations have forced their abductors to be always on the move.

"It's physically and psychological very difficult for us at the moment. We are under much pressure. The group is constantly under alert so therefore we have to be constantly under alert as well. We only have a few hours to sleep," he said.

Armed men abducted Mr Notter, Eugenio Vagni, 62, and Mary Jean Lacaba, 38, on January 15 in Jolo.

Red Cross volunteer, aid packets, Mindanao, Jan 09
The Red Cross continues to distribute aid to Muslims displaced by fighting
Mr Notter also expressed concern for his colleagues' health and their inability to communicate with their families in more than a week.

The Philippine military say they have cordoned off an area of jungle to prevent the gunmen from taking the captives elsewhere.

The military said the gunmen, thought to be from the Abu Sayyaf rebel group, have made certain "political" demands that the authorities deem unacceptable.

No peace

The International Crisis Group has issued a new report on the conflict in the southern Philippines, following the failure of a peace agreement late last year.

The ICG noted that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was unlikely to be able to forge a new pact in her last 16 months in office.

But it said a focus on small steps could improve the situation on the ground for tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting between government troops and the 11,600-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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SEE ALSO
US plays quiet role in the Philippines
28 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Is Philippine peace process dead?
08 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Many killed in Jolo violence
10 Aug 07 |  World
Philippine group beheads hostages
20 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Guide to the Philippines conflict
10 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific


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