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Iraqi Hostage Takers Extend Philippine Deadline

12 July 2004 -- Militants holding a Philippine truck driver in Iraq have given the Philippine government another 48 hours to withdraw its troops.

The kidnappers have threatened to behead Angelo dela Cruz, unless the Philippines pulls its 51 soldiers out of Iraq by July 20.

Earlier yesterday, the Philippine foreign secretary said the troops would pull out as planned, one month later on 20 August.

Meanwhile, the fate of two Bulgarian truck drivers remains unclear. Their captors have threatened to kill them, unless U.S. troops released all Iraqi detainees, by a deadline, which has now passed. But Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said the two are still alive. Bulgarian officials are in Iraq working for their release.

Elsewhere, three U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate incidents yesterday in Iraq involving roadside bombs.

After talks in Damascus, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said Iraq and Syria will work together to seal their long desert border to stop foreign militants infiltrating into Iraq.