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China, Japan Call For Release Of Hostages In Iraq

Baghdad, 12 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Chinese and Japanese officials are calling for the release of their citizens being held by apparently separate groups in Iraq.

Sun Bigan, head of China's diplomatic mission in Baghdad, today said he has asked Iraq's interior minister to do everything possible to ensure the release of seven Chinese citizens, taken hostage in Al-Fallujah yesterday by unknown people.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said he will ignore the hostage-takers' threat to kill three Japanese hostages seized last week unless Japan's 550 soldiers are withdrawn from Iraq.

There are also questions about an American contractor kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents. His captors had threatened to kill him if U.S. forces did not end their siege of Al-Fallujah.