21 January 2005 -- The Chinese government says it has told its embassy in Baghdad to work hard to save the lives of eight Chinese nationals who have been kidnapped in Iraq.
The statement was issued after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline by the kidnappers for China to give an explanation of why the men were in Iraq.
There is no word on the men's fate since the expiration of the deadline. The kidnappers have threatened to execute them.
Families of the men have said they went to the Middle East in search of work, and the Chinese government has denied that they were sent to work for the U.S. military.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said the government was asking diplomats to spare no effort to try to secure the release of the hostages.
(AFP/Reuters)[For the latest news and analysis on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".]