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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 16:39 GMT
UK presses Abbas on BBC reporter
Alan Johnston
Johnston has been the BBC's reporter in Gaza for three years

The UK has raised the disappearance of the BBC's Alan Johnston with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, the foreign secretary has said.

Margaret Beckett said London was using every possible channel to secure the release of Johnston, who disappeared in Gaza over a week ago.

The EU has also said it is doing all it can to establish his whereabouts.

The BBC has again appealed to everyone with influence to intensify efforts to ensure Johnston's quick release.

"We continue to work tirelessly with the authorities in Gaza and elsewhere to try to locate Alan," the BBC said in a statement on Tuesday.

"However, despite the assurances that we've received about his welfare, we still do not have any firm knowledge regarding his condition or his whereabouts."

The BBC also expressed thanks to all who showed their support at demonstrations in the UK and the Middle East on Monday.

Father's appeal

Answering questions in parliament, Mrs Beckett said it was particularly sad when someone who had been a long-standing friend of the Palestinian people suffered in this way.

Shortly before she was questioned, EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana said from the first day the EU had been talking to Palestinian leaders and figures from civil society to try to see if he could be freed.

Mr Solana told the BBC: "I can tell you that from the very first day we have been doing the utmost, talking to all the leaders, from the Palestinians and to some friends, [and in] civil society that I know and he knew, and to try to see if we can liberate him - the sooner, the better.

"I don't have any specific information to be made public now, but the other thing I would like to insist on once again is that we are concerned, that we keep on doing all our efforts every day," he said.

On Monday, Johnston's father, Graham, appealed for information and urged anyone holding his son to "just let him go", saying he was a friend to the Palestinian people.

Alan Johnston has been the BBC's correspondent in the Gaza Strip for the past three years - and the only foreign journalist from a major media organisation based in Gaza.

The BBC describes him as a highly experienced and respected reporter.

Aged 44, he was born in Tanzania and educated in Scotland.

He joined the BBC World Service in 1991 and has spent eight of the last 16 years as a correspondent, including periods in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

His Gaza posting was due to come to an end at the end of next month.




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BBC staff gather in support of Alan Johnston



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