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Philippine Response To Iraq Hostage Unclear

13 July 2004 -- A senior Philippine official says the country plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq "as soon as possible" in response to a demand from militants who are holding a Filipino truck driver hostage.

However, the statement by Deputy Foreign Secretary Rafael Seguis on Al-Jazeera television did not make clear whether the Philippines was moving forward its planned 20 August withdrawal of its 51-member peacekeeping contingent.

The militants, calling themselves the Islamic Army in Iraq, have threatened to kill hostage Angelo dela Cruz unless the Philippine government agrees to demands to pull its troops out of Iraq by 20 July.