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Wave Of Hostage Takings Continues In Iraq

Prague, 24 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- News of the kidnapping today of a senior Iraqi construction official came as Egypt continued efforts to secure the release of a diplomat taken hostage in Baghdad -- and as Iraq's prime minister urged Cairo not to give in to the kidnappers.

Police said today that construction-company director Raad Adnan was abducted at gunpoint in Baghdad in broad daylight.

Adnan was stopped on a road as he was driving to work, the latest in a wave of kidnappings.

Yesterday, Egyptian diplomat Muhammad Mamdouh Qutb was taken hostage as he left a Baghdad mosque.

Al-Jazeera television broadcast pictures of Qutb sitting in front of six hooded and armed men from a group calling itself the Lions of God Battalions in Iraq. The militants said they abducted Qutb in response to Egyptian offers of security assistance to Iraq.

The abduction prompted Egypt to affirm it has no plans to send troops to Iraq.

Cairo is continuing efforts to secure Qutb's release.

"I hope that our citizens in Iraq whether they are diplomats or not will be released [soon], Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said today. "It is a very sensitive situation and we hope that they will be released."

In Damascus, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said his government is doing all it can to have Qutb freed.

Allawi, who has asked neighboring countries to help Iraq with security, urged Egypt not to give in to kidnappers. Last week, the Philippines pulled out its 51 troops in Iraq a month early to spare the life of a Filipino hostage -- a decision Allawi said today was "regrettable."

"The only way to deal with terrorists is to bring them to justice and to close ranks and we hope that Egypt and the Egyptian government would act accordingly," Allawi said.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Al-Zebari was in Moscow today.

Al-Zebari said he would like Russia to send peacekeepers to Iraq. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after meeting with Al-Zebari that Moscow has no such plans.

However, Lavrov said Russia is willing to offer other assistance.

"Russia is ready to give support to the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty by other means, including trade and economic cooperation, personnel training and settlement of Iraq's debt problems though the Paris Club," Lavrov said. "I assure you that this will be no less a contribution than that by participants in the multinational forces."

Moscow recently evacuated hundreds of energy workers from Iraq, saying they could only return after security had improved.