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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 17:07 GMT
Iran kidnapped Westerners 'okay'
Iran's Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mussavi-Lari
Iran's Interior Minister is confident of a successful conclusion
The government in Iran has said three Western tourists - one Irishman and two Germans - are "physically okay" 10 days after they were kidnapped.

A government spokesman said he expected the tourists, thought to be cyclists, to be released soon.

The three were kidnapped on 8 December in south-eastern Iran, close to the Pakistani border.

Their captors - thought to be drugs traffickers - have demanded five million euros for their release.

Iran has said it will not pay any ransom and has urged Irish and German authorities to do the same.

The Irish Red Cross has named the Irishman as Aidan James Leahy.

The organisation's chairman, David Andrews, has met the Iranian ambassador in Ireland to attempt to secure the man's release.

Negotiations

Iran's Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mussavi-Lari said the intelligence ministry and the police were both working on securing the tourists' release.

"Based on the information [our departments] have given us, they are physically okay," he said.

He added that officials working for the release of the three were confident they could "resolve the issue soon".

The three tourists were cycling near Nosrat Abad, on the road between the ancient city of Bam and Zahedan in the south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, when they were kidnapped.

The government says their captors are drug smugglers who are unhappy at a police seizure of their consignment.

Ten Europeans were kidnapped in three separate incidents in the Islamic Republic in 1999.

The hostages were freed unharmed and three of the kidnappers were publicly hanged in 2001.


SEE ALSO:
Sahara hostages asked to pay up
20 Oct 03  |  Europe
Tourists kidnapped in Iran
15 Aug 99  |  Middle East
Country profile: Iran
15 Sep 03  |  Country profiles



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