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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Blair pledge for missing BBC man
Alan Johnston
Mr Blair said the UK was doing everything it could for Alan Johnston
Tony Blair has said the UK government is doing everything it can to secure the release of abducted BBC correspondent Alan Johnston.

The journalist was seized at gunpoint in Gaza 51 days ago.

The prime minister told the Commons there was "no conceivable reason for him to be kept - he was a journalist doing his job out there".

On Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said he was also working hard to secure Mr Johnston's release.

'Peace and freedom'

Meanwhile in Ireland, religious leaders from the Catholic and Muslim communities came together on the eve of World Press Freedom Day to call for the correspondent to be freed.

In a joint statement, Dr Diarmuid Martin and Sheikh Hussein Halawa said: "We, an Archbishop of the majority faith in Ireland and an Imam of the majority faith in Gaza, stand here united in seeking the safe return of Alan Johnston to his family, friends and colleagues.

"In the pursuit of peace and freedom - values treasured by each of our religions - we plead with his captors to let Alan Johnston go immediately," they added.

Earlier, Tory Lee Scott, MP for Ilford North, urged Mr Blair to use his final weeks in office to secure the release of Mr Johnston and Israeli soldier, Corporal Ghilad Shalit, captured by militants near Gaza last June.

Mr Blair said he was sorry they were both still hostages.

Of Mr Johnston's release, he said: "We continue to do everything we can to facilitate that.

"In respect of Corporal Shalit, it would allow a whole series of things to happen, not least release of Palestinian prisoners and other things that would allow us to move this situation forward," he added.

"There continues to be nothing more urgent than the Middle East."

There has been no direct information on Alan Johnston's fate since he was seized after leaving his office in Gaza City on 12 March.

He has lived and worked in Gaza for three years and was the only Western reporter permanently based in the often violent and lawless territory.


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