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Iraqi President's Rome Visit Overshadowed By Kidnapping --> Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir (file photo) 10 September 2004 -- Iraq's interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir arrived in Rome today for talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as Rome is trying to secure the release of two Italian female aid workers being held in Iraq.

The Italian government has sent an envoy to the Middle East for meeting with officials and women's groups to build support for the two workers kidnapped on 7 September in Baghdad.

A militant group supportive of Al-Qaeda has given Italy 24 hours to promise to release Muslim women imprisoned in Iraq in exchange for information about the two Italians.

The statement was issued today by a group calling itself Ansar al-Zawahiri on a website, but it could not be authenticated. Italy has about 3,000 soldiers in Iraq.

Al-Yawir was in Germany yesterday and later will travel to Spain, Great Britain, and EU headquarters in Brussels.


For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".