We discussed the hostage situation in Iraq in our phone-in programme, Talking Point, with our guest, hostage negotiator and former hostage, Terry Waite.
A senior Italian politician says he believes a ransom was paid for the freedom of two female aid workers kidnapped in Iraq.
Gustavo Selva, head of the Italian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the government's denials were purely "official".
Meanwhile, British hostage Kenneth Bigley has been shown in a video screened on Al-Jazeera television pleading for help from the Prime Minister.
More than 140 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq - some by anti-US insurgents and others by criminals seeking ransom.
How should foreign governments and private firms involved in Iraq respond to this spate of kidnappings? Is their first duty the safety of their people? Or is there a wider responsibility to stand firm in the face of brutality and blackmail?
This debate is now closed Thank you for your comments.
Such acts are monstrous and all the more disturbing when "pseudo-religious" justifications are used. And while the US and UK continue to argue that the war was justified, it is increasingly difficult to imagine how any constructive end can be achieved, especially when one considers that the hostages are usually taken from among those doing reconstruction work.
Albert, Indiana, USA
Private firms should withdraw all their staff now. After all what is the point of rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq when the insurgents are blowing up their own buildings and killing their own people? There is no justification for the war or for private firms to be there.
Big D, Manchester, UK
Giving into terrorism is not an option. Regardless of our views on the invasion of Iraq, the job of allowing a free Iraqi government (through free elections) must be accomplished. Anything else is just running away from the problem.
Sean, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
I really think it is time that Bush and Blair admitted they were wrong and swallowed their pride. We cannot keep allowing innocent lives to be taken just because they refuse to admit they are wrong.
Jo, Birmingham, UK
No one seems to realise that people don't go through such an effort as kidnapping, or any other terrorist act without a reason. How about we not only look at the underlying causes, but solve them as well?
Aaron, Philadelphia, USA
Although I feel desperately sorry for both the hostages and their families, if Bush and Blair give in to this blackmail then terrorists will start picking up people left, right and centre because they know that it is a system by which they can get their demands met. Perhaps a new tactic could be to give no publicity, media coverage or attention whatsoever to events such as these to show the terrorists that there is no point to hostage taking anymore. It can't work any worse than the system we are using now can it?
All foreign workers should leave Iraq, withdraw all troops and leave them to their own device.
Ruth, Camden, London, UK
We must not give in to terrorists or hostage takers. Doing so will only further their evil aims.
Teresa Adams, Kenilworth, UK
No you can't stop the kidnappings. I was on a convoy last week and they could have taken us at any time. But not without a fight! I will not have my family see me on CNN
Ronald Chiniquy, Al Kut, Iraq
I am very impressed with how the British Muslims have stepped up to the plate and are at least trying to do something. I wonder how much longer it will take the American Muslims to unite and to seriously come out against this evil. They have been too quiet for far too long.
Michel, Jackson, MS
As long as people cower and pay ransom, these kidnappings will continue. The Italians are paying $1 million for the freedom of the two women hostages. Now Arafat, of all people, is going to intercede on behalf of Mr Bigley - what a laugh! The guy will win another Nobel Peace Prize if he succeeds, that's how ridiculous the whole scenario has become.
Evlin Stein, Cincinnati, USA
As a civilian working in Afghanistan shortly after the war, I was comprehensively trained before departing in dealing with hostage situations, and how to minimise the risk of being abducted. For someone who claims that his wife could not go on if he died, Mr Bigley seems to have taken visiting a highly dangerous war zone at the age of 62 very lightly indeed. Despite being opposed to the war, I find it absurd that his brother is making anti-war pronouncements as if reading a script written by the terrorists themselves. Hope for Mr Bigley's release lies only in the continued efforts of people such as Mr Arafat and the members of the Muslim Council of Great Britain.
Kris Hansen, St Albans, UK
I am a soldier and I know the risks of going into Iraq, where I will be in the near future, civilians also know the risks. Whilst I sympathise with the Bigleys I believe that Mr Bigley's brother is using this as a political stage to discredit the government, Mr Bigley knew the risks or he would not be there!
So far, it seems not negotiating with terrorists results in the killing of the victims and more kidnapping.
The Bigley family is giving the terrorists exactly what they want: More publicity! Don't they realise that they are playing into the hands of the terrorists? Tomorrow it will be the turn of another family and another and another....
Jay Kandy, London, England
In this case every solution is faulty: give in to the demands and prepare for a wave of hostage-takings and subsequent killings, don't give in and Mr Bigley will die.
Why was he in Iraq in the first place? People who go there know the kind of risks they take.
Jos, Huizen, Nl
Behind every terrorist act is an underlying cause. Terrorism, whilst abhorrent is only a symptom of some (sometimes perceived) injustice. Until oppression by the strong ends, the weak will hit out in any way they seem fit. Sad to say I think terrorism will never go away, with or without the likes of Osama Bin Laden. In fact it will become the weapon of many more in the future. Someone better come out with a better solution soon.
A Yusoff, Singapore
Private firms and aid workers should be assisted by their governments at all times. They are not part of the 'invading' forces, but are trying to help and rebuild Iraq. Something the terrorists and kidnappers should take into consideration as well.
My thoughts are with Ken Bigley and his family at this time and I applaud the efforts by the British Muslims in having hope and courage to try and secure his release. What is Tony Blair up to? Clearly he favours George Bush over the British electorate and I hope we all do not forget this come the general election. Blair will sell us all short and this is proof of it.
American troops need to leave and be replaced by a more acceptable security force, perhaps formed by other Muslim states. However, the American budget for renovation, amenities, jobs, education etc should be increased so that the Iraqi people can see tangible progress of the (so far) rather empty promises around rebuilding. This way internal support for terrorism will dwindle and the Iraqi people will feel that they finally have their country back. People should stop looking back at whether we should have gone to war or not, and look forward to how we can fix it.
My heart and prayers go out to Ken Bigley and his family - but how can they think of wanting to force Tony Blair into meeting the hostage takers demands. Do they not realise that by doing so will only encourage them to take more hostages and make more demands for the release of prisoners thus putting yet another family through this turmoil - the hostage takers are the enemy here - not our government although that doesn't mean that they should have gone to war against Iraq in the first place.
Caroline Murphy, London
One can only imagine the fear and torment both Mr Bigley and his family are going through, although we can also see that no government can bow down to terrorists. Full respect and acknowledgment should be shown to Dr Daud Abdullah and Dr Musharraf Hussain for going out to Iraq in an attempt to help the family and hostage.
Chris Shaw, UK
We have lived in the US for years but are from Yorkshire originally. My family prays for Kenneth Bigley and his family. No-one can imagine their pain.
Janet Tate and family, Lewisville, TX, USA
Negotiating with terrorists, even once, would leave us open to the whim of every extremist able to get hold of a British citizen anywhere in the world. I believe that it is absolutely imperative that we ensure that people who kidnap and bomb and murder are never allowed to achieve their aims via such low and cowardly means.
S. Fox, Harlow, England
I cannot begin to imagine what the family and friends of Mr Bigley are going through at this time, but I am firmly in support of the government's position. Bowing under pressure from any terrorist (individual or group) would open the floodgates and send a signal that kidnapping is a risk-free carte-blanche way to achieve a political end at low cost.
T. Charters, Harrogate, UK
Excellent reaction from UK Muslims - hope it is effective. Hope there will be more public condemnation of terrorism from the mainstream Muslim community in the UK and worldwide. Terrorists should not get away with hiding behind religious slogans. Those who want to protect the good name of their religion should act.
Nobody in their right mind would condone the kidnapping and beheading of people. Such actions should be condemned and stopped immediately. However, the United States and its allies must pull out of Iraqi unconditionally. Their mission is over. They went into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction and did not find them, they have arrested Saddam Hussein. Enough is enough!
Tendai Sibanda, Harare, Zimbabwe
As a Muslim, nothing is more repulsive to me than what these murderers are doing in the name of Islam. Those trying to defend or justify these actions should remember that in Islam, the Koran and the prophet's traditions govern all actions. We must all ask ourselves, is this how Mohammed waged Jihad?
Kelati, Washington DC , USA
It's easy to say "we will not negotiate with terrorists" when it isn't your loved one facing death. It should also be pointed out - who are the terrorists? Invading a sovereign nation on false pretences and occupying that land having killed thousands of civilians - translates into acts of terror. Bush and Blair are the terrorists in the eyes of many.
To have sympathy for the devil is a dangerous thing. What you are seeing is evil in its raw state. There is NO justification for this and all right minded people should be appalled at it. I fear for the health of our society when evil is condoned and the people who combat it are criticised, from what appears dogmatic prejudice.
John Karran, Liverpool, UK
At the end of the day, forget the politics, forget the words, forget the opinions, forget everything. Just pray, pray for Ken that he will soon be back home in England, back with his mum, his wife, his family, his friends, safe and sound where he belongs.
TA, Dartford, Kent
If Britain had refused to negotiate with terrorists in the past, the IRA would still be at war. The demands of the kidnappers (even though they are cruel killers) are perfectly within the norms of international law - they are merely demanding that women prisoners, who have not been charged with any crime, be released. This demand should be met in any case. Mr Bigley is being sacrificed by Blair's craven subservience to the Bush war machine.
Fergus Brogan, Ireland
I believe they can be stopped if it is made apparent to them that this type of extortion will not work. This has to be done by not giving in to them, Yes it may appear to be incredibly cruel to those who have loved ones in captivity but it may be the only way.
John Hillier, Ilford, Essex
The Iraqis, Americans, British and allies should use the language of the hostage takers. The victims foreign and Iraqi should be described as martyrs for the freedom of Iraq because this is what they are. These people have given their lives so that Iraqis can determine their own future through democracy and freedom. The hostage takers are trying to take Iraq back to the rule of tyrants and gangs these innocent people (the hostages) are the true heroes of the Middle East.
Chris Hughes, UK
In my opinion the government shouldn't give in the kidnappers' request. But I'm not sure I would say the same if the person they have kidnapped is someone I know or someone I love.
The policies coming out of London and Washington are partially responsible for what is happening on the streets-including kidnappings. 18 months were practically passed without any significant sign of improvement in the life of average Iraqi. These kidnappings may not have happened- either in low numbers or at least beheadings- if, things would have done differently; especially the politics that was mixed with military solutions where it was not warranted.
Bhawan, Baghdad, Iraq
Why are kidnappings and beheadings cruel while dropping of bombs are ok? Is it because we do not have a personal profile of the victims and we do not hear them plead for mercy?
Its double standards and until this attitude changes, the roots of today's problem cannot be resolved.
Chan Chow Wah, Singapore
To give in to terrorist demands only encourages them to make more. To publicise their actions only encourages them to do the same thing again. We should limit reporting to stating that 'a terrorist group' has kidnapped/murdered someone and deny them the publicity and attention that they seek.
Megan, Crewe, UK
These kidnappers are taking advantage of the fact that the war in Iraq was unjust. They are using this as a pretext to say that the West got into this war for its own reasons and not to protect the Iraqi people. Now even innocent Iraqi people are being killed and there is no way that there will be any stability in Iraq. America has to get out of Iraq and let its people take charge of its affairs. The message is loud and clear: Get out America
Aparna, Chennai, India
In reply to the comment by 'D Burnham, UK': The Philippines did withdraw their troops to save the life of Angelo dela Cruz when he was taken hostage in Iraq. I've read that Filipino President Arroyo said "I made a decision to bring our troops home a few days early in order to spare the life of Angelo. I do not regret that decision. Every life is important."
KT, Horsham, UK
Oh please will some of you stop with this nonsense about legitimate resistance. There is nothing legitimate or honourable about sawing through a blindfolded civilians head with a knife....and you lot making political points on the back of it is sick.
I find it outrageous that Al Jazeera TV broadcast any video sent to them by the hostage takers. This policy can only encourage more hostage taking when the terrorists know that they will get guaranteed airtime to publicise their demands. If the means of publicising their actions were cut-off then their effectiveness would be massively reduced.
How convenient that an American viewer should suggest that only Iraq can deal with its terrorist problem. It is typical of the myopic outlook that most Americans have. America created the terrorist problem in Iraq together with Britain. Why should Iraq now be forced to pay for the awful terrorism (mostly perpetrated by the US) the US and Britain have unleashed? The US should be made to pay reparations
Afqar Dean, Brentwood Essex
As a journalist and as a human being I believe that the current situation calls for drastic measures. I am a vociferous supporter of democracy and free speech; but I believe that, in reality, the hostage-taking in Iraq and elsewhere can be effectively stopped only and exclusively by preventing the message of the hostage-takers - indeed, any news of hostage-taking - to be circulated. This would call for outright censorship of the internet, among other media outlets. But I sincerely believe that there is no other way of preventing further hostage-taking. Every other alternative falls in the realm of rhetoric. I don't think that such censorship should set a precedent for more general control of media, of course; but in this particular situation, I believe that is the only real immediate solution.
Anon, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Kenneth Bigley is one of those hostages who is unique. It's his age that stands out. It is possible that the kidnappers could release him and make far more capital from his release than they could ever make from his death. But mixed in with the frustration of peoples there is really downright anger for a number of reasons, not least the American use of Gunboat diplomacy. Unfortunately if you happen to be of the US/UK/UN combo you will reap the whirlwind of collective policy. Being a member of the EU is not much better. We really need to cut the rhetoric and sort out a new way of dealing with the Islamic world.
Tony, Welling, Kent
Terrorism is already out of control though we have seen in its name two big wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, which engulfed thousands of people without any official account. What is next to curb it? Are America and its allies ready to amend their foreign policies which terrorists claim they're fighting for?
Rizwan Khan, Hyderabad, India
If all foreign troops were to pull out of Iraq, the problem of hostages would not exist. Without Western backup it would not take long for the people of Iraq to depose unelected Allawi, planted by an unelected US president, and elect a true democratic government that the US would be envious of. Michael Howard, echoing Tony Blair, shows the people of Britain that the Liberal Democrats are the party of choice in the next General Election.
Ray, Wolverhampton UK
Given the number of coalition forces in Iraq, and the intelligence personnel behind them, why is it not possible to track down these hostages and their takers? We found Saddam in a hole one meter squared, surely the forces could locate and recover the hostages and at the same time suppress the abductors (including the disturbed Zarqawi). Mr Bigley has been captive nearly a week, don't tell me a week isn't enough time to mount such an operation.
James Mills, UK
The authorities should pretend to give the terrorists what they want then, double cross them once the men are free and reverse the concessions and carry on hunting the criminals as normal.
Patrick, Oxford, England
I cannot believe that the war on terror has gone this far. The Bigley incident is indicative of the fact that the war on terror has gone wrong and gone too far
My opinion is that I think everyone needs to take a step back and look at what each party is wanting and how we take everything forward without any more people dying. Al-Qaeda and Iraqi fundamentalists want Americans off their soil and also want revenge for various things that happened in the past in their back gardens. The Americans are also on a mission of revenge and cleansing after 9/11, and to be fair, neither the US nor the British can look back at past events and say they have a clean slate. We are all as bad as each other, and it all needs to stop.
Jeff Choley, BW, London
From BBCArabic.com:These acts are inhuman because it is illegal to harm innocent people. By the same token, the United States should stop its killing of innocent civilians everyday in the streets and torturing them in prisons.
Bassam, Saudi Arabia
From BBCArabic.com:This is very bad for Iraqis and Muslims and will give them a bad reputation in the West. New generations there will now consider Iraqis and Muslim as killers.
Kadir Samad, Folkestone, UK
From BBCArabic.com:I wish that one day the Islamic world will be unified and will send an Islamic army to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight those who instigate sedition and subversion like Bin Laden, Zawahri and Zarqawi. The United States or any other country will thus have no valid ground to invade Islamic countries. This will demonstrate to the world how the Islamic nation rejects abductions and slaughtering of innocents in the name of religion, as Islam is totally against such acts.
Jalal Fahmi, Egypt
From BBCArabic.com:My heart goes out to the families of the two American victims. We assure the American and British people that we are aware that the evil forces of terrorism are targeting us all. The abductions, killings and bombings won't stop unless the armed gangs hiding in the Falluja, Baakouba, Ramadi and Latifya districts are wiped out. This is where most of the Baath former henchmen and some Arab fundamentalists are kept in hiding. As much as we condemn such barbaric acts, we refuse to negotiate with them. As for the Iraqi scientist Rihab Taha, she has to be prosecuted.
From BBCArabic.com:I am really surprised how easy and fast these abductions took place with no clue so far pointing to the real identity of the hostage-takers. Why was it so easy to abduct the British and American workers from the heart of Baghdad amidst such heavy security measures and after all the warning signs?
Adel Haidar, Kuwait
Kidnappings and beheadings are absolutely brutal acts and not at all "acts of resistance". That should be clear from the start. I disagree with the war on Iraq, as I believe that violence brings violence. We should have let the Iraqi people do away with the former regime by their own means. But terrorism is a different thing. Its cruelty over unarmed people. And it is unethical.
Stathis Nalpantidis, Athens, Greece
It's a horrible situation, but Mr Blair is right. If we negotiate with terrorists then imagine how many hostages there will be tomorrow once the terrorists see that hostage taking works. Hard as it is, there is nothing we can do with regards to negotiation, without threatening the lives of dozens of other British, American and other citizens working in Iraq.
Dave Knight, Darlington, England