Interim Iraqi Premier Allawi (file photo)
23 September 2004 -- Iraq's interim government today said Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is not willing to allow the release of Rihab Taha, a biological weapons researcher held in U.S. custody.
A militant group has executed two U.S. hostages and is threatening to kill a British hostage unless coalition forces release all women prisoners in Iraq. The U.S. military says Taha -- known as Dr. Germ because of her work with anthrax -- is one of only two women it is holding.
The Iraqi government statement said Taha was among three high-profile prisoners whose status is under review. It said discussions on her possible release are unrelated to the militants' demands.
In London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain will not negotiate with the hostage-takers despite a video message from the British hostage pleading for his life: "I'm afraid to say [hostage Ken Bigley's video plea] can't alter the position of the British government and, as I've explained to the family, we can't get into a situation of bargaining with terrorists because this would put many more peoples' lives at risk, not only in Iraq, but around the world."
Meanwhile, there has been no confirmation of a claim by another militant group which said it executed two Italian female hostages.