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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Iraq holds on to hijackers
Saudi hijackers
The hijackers were paraded on Iraqi television
Iraq has turned down a request from Saudi Arabia to extradite the two men who hijacked a Saudi plane on Saturday and forced it to fly to Iraq.

The Iraqi Interior Minister, Mohammad Zammam Abdel Razzak, said the two Saudi men would not be returned.

"Our people have never, throughout their long history, handed over an intruder and even less so if he is using his right to his land, Iraq being the land of all Arabs," Mr Razzak said.

On Monday Saudi Arabia's interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, demanded that the two men, who were employed in the Saudi security forces, be returned.

"We will not compromise over their extradition," the Prince said.

An extradition treaty was in force between the two countries before diplomatic relations were broken off following Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The hijack ended peacefully when the Boeing 777-200, carrying more than 100 people, many of them Britons, landed in Baghdad after it was diverted from a scheduled flight from Jeddah to London.

Conspiracy theories

The two Saudi hijackers said they were fleeing their country because of human rights abuses.

Some British newspapers have suggested that the action was an elaborate ploy by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to boost his diplomatic image and help bring an end to sanctions on his country.

Saudi Prince Bandar bin Abdel Rahman
Saudi Prince Rahman was amongst those hijacked

Iraq is still under a United States air embargo following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 but recent flights from Arab countries to Baghdad appear to have weakened its impact.

The Iraqi interior minister said Saudi Arabia had given the Emir of Kuwait similar refuge during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and accused the Saudi's of collaborating with the Americans.

"You are the ones who are in agreement with the Americans and the Jews. You allow Iraq to be bombed from your lands, and still we do not bargain. Do you think we will bargain now?" Mr Razzak asked.

He said Saudi Arabia should rather be grateful that Iraq had resolved the crisis peacefully and treated the hostages well.

Saudi Arabia has said it will use all means, including Interpol, to secure the extradition of the two men.

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See also:

15 Oct 00 | Middle East
Iraq hopes for diplomatic boost
14 Sep 00 | Middle East
Hijack drama ends safely
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