03/28/2007, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN – ITALY
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Any discrimination between Afghan and Italian hostages is Dadullah's doing, says Italian ambassador

In an interview with AsiaNews Italian Ambassador Sequi talks about the controversy surrounding the Mastrogiacomo affair. For Italy life has no nationality. Contacts with Afghan authorities continue in order to get Afghan interpreter released from Taliban hands. Local and Italian press held a constructive meeting in Kabul yesterday.

<Kabul (AsiaNews) - “If there was any discrimination in the way Afghans and Italians were treated in the Mastrogiacomo affair, this was mullah Dadullah’s doing. The Italian government remains in constant contact with Afghan authorities which are doing all they can to free the interpreter, Adjmal Nashkbandi, who is still in Taliban hands,” said Ettore Sequi, Italian ambassador in Kabul. In an interview with AsiaNews, he also said that he continued to meet the relatives of the young interpreter who was abducted by Dadullah’s men in Helmand province on March 4 along with the La Repubblica reporter.

Mastrogiacomo’s release in exchange for five top Taliban leaders has been criticised in Afghanistan where many regret the apparent indifference shown by Italian and Afghan authorities towards the fate of the two Afghan kidnap victims.

Sayed Agha, the Italian reporter’s driver, was killed soon after he disappeared, beheaded allegedly for being a spy.

“La Repubblica, in co-ordination with the Italian government, is trying to raise money for Mr Sayed’s widow and their five children,” Ambassador Sequi said.

In Outlook Afghanistan, a local English-language paper, she is quoted as saying that she was sorry for the indifference the two governments exhibited towards her family’s conditions after the release of the Italian journalist.

In order to prove to Afghans that “Italy is still concerned about the fate of Mastrogiacomo’s assistants, the Italian Embassy in Kabul hosted a meeting between representatives of the press of the two countries,” Mr Sequi said.

The diplomat explained that the initiative “was approved by and has the backing of Mr Adjmal’s family.”

“It is important to understand that since the beginning the Italian government asked for the release of all three hostages. For us life has no nationality. If there was any discrimination it’s Dadullah’s and no one else’s doing. He killed an Afghan and is holding another one against his will.”

The meeting between Italian and Afghan journalists was constructive. Unlike previous days, this morning the local press was already using softer tones in its criticism of the decision to make the exchange.

“After 24 hours I noticed that the Afghan press was better aware of the Italian government’s point of view on the issue,” Mr Sequi said. “Today’s papers reported on what was discussed during the meeting. Now there is a more informed attitude which can serve as a base for a positive exchange.”

“Also today Afghan papers have started an open debate over the issue, sponsored by Italy and the European Commission with the participation of the Afghan Culture Minister,” he added.

Meanwhile, nothing is known about the fate of another Afghan hostage, Rahmatullah Hanefi, who runs a hospital for Italian NGO Emergency in Lashkar Gah. Negotiations between the NGO and kidnappers are still underway.

According to Emergency, Hanefi is being held by the Afghan secret services, who are interrogating him under torture.

Ambassador Sequi reiterated that Italy “has directly intervened several times with afghan authorities demanding answers about Mr Hanefi’s situation so that he can be released as soon as possible.”

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