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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 19:59 GMT
Fears for man 'dedicated to peace'
Norman Kember
Mr Kember is 'totally critical of the war on Iraq'
Kidnapped charity worker Norman Kember was in Iraq to "show solidarity" with the Iraqi people, his friend has said.

Bruce Kent, who has known him for 15 years, has spoken of his "great concern" for a man whose "whole life has been dedicated to peace".

Mr Kent dismissed as "rubbish" claims by The Swords of Truth Brigade, who are holding the 74-year-old, that he and three other westerners with him are spies.

"He was only meant to be there for two weeks and he certainly wasn't spying," he said.

"It was purely a gesture of solidarity with other people suffering - that's what he was doing.

"He was so critical of the whole war on Iraq - totally critical."

He's a very resilient chap whose got plenty of mental bounce in him and physically he's quite strong, so I think he'll stand up to this
Bruce Kent

A committed Christian, Mr Kember was in the Iraqi capital working for a US-based human rights group.

In a radio interview before he left for Iraq, the retired professor from London said he hoped to meet "ordinary Iraqis of various backgrounds".

He would "certainly have been aware of the enormous danger" of visiting Iraq, Mr Kent said.

"He would have known the dangers over there but that's why I think it's courage that he showed.

"The people out there deserve a bit of western support which is non-governmental. I think that's what he was doing so he knew he was taking a risk."

'No security'

Mr Kember is unlikely to have been protected by armed security because that would only have been available from UK or US Government sources.

"Precisely because he was distancing himself from those institutions, he would not have had security," his friend said.

Mr Kent, who is vice-president of CND, said his friend was "a lovely man" with a "wonderful little twinkly sense of humour".

"He's a very deep, sincere man. A man whose whole life has been dedicated to peace," he added.

I've demonstrated but I feel that's what I'd call cheap peacemaking
Norman Kember

While concerned about his welfare, Mr Kent said Mr Kember was "very resilient".

"I think he'll be probably the strongest member of that group.

"He's a very resilient chap whose got plenty of mental bounce in him and physically he's quite strong, so I think he'll stand up to this."

Mr Kember was aware of the danger of travelling in Iraq without armed protection.

When asked before he went if he was brave, Mr Kember said: "I don't know. I've done a lot of writing and talking about peacemaking.

"I've demonstrated... but I feel that's what I'd call cheap peacemaking."

And when asked if going to Iraq could be more costly, he replied: "It could be."




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