31 August 2004 -- Iran today called for the immediate release of the two French journalists being held hostage in Iraq.
The appeal, made by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, came as a representative of the Association for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iran, Masha'allah Shams-ol-Vaezin, said he is willing to go to Iraq to help free the two journalists.
Shams-ol-Vaezins made his remarks today while speaking to RFE/RL's Persian Service, Radio Farda. "I have voiced my readiness to go to Iraq and negotiate with those who can influence the hostage takers, and I hope this will be accepted," he said. "I am ready to travel to Iraq immediately in order to prepare the ground for the release of our two dear colleagues [the French journalists held hostage in Iraq]."
Earlier, French President Jacques Chirac reiterated his appeal for the release of two Frenchmen.
The European Parliament also called for the immediate release of the two journalists with more than 160 lawmakers signing a petition demanding their freedom.
Militants holding the two journalists have given France an extra 24 hours -- until late today -- to revoke a ban on the wearing of Muslim head scarves in French public schools. France has already said the ban will not be revoked.
(Reuters/dpa/AFP/AP)For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".