08/06/2007, 00.00
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Seoul hope for solution to hostage crises at Camp David

President Karzai is in the Usa to meet with George W. Bush, but has already repeated his no to the exchange of the 21 hostages for prisoners wanted by the Taliban and blocked by Washington. Negotiations between Seoul and the “Koranic students” are stalled once again, under the threat of further executions. The international Catholic Community in Kabul hold “ceaseless prayer vigil” for their release.

Kabul (AsiaNews) –  Seoul is hoping a meeting between the Afghan and US presidents could break the apparent deadlock in negotiations for the release of 21 aid workers held hostage by the Taliban since July 19th last. But signs are discouraging: yesterday before his departure for Camp David, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the government is working to free 21 South Korean hostages but indicated it wouldn't give in to Taliban demands.  The Taliban are holding the hostages in Ghazni – they demand to release its fighters held in the US base at Bagram in exchange for their lives. Two hostages have already been killed.

In attempts to save the group of Presbyterian Christians Seoul has launched a series of negotiations with the Taliban, but with little success.  Yousuf Ahmadi, spokesperson for the “Koranic Students” said the Taliban were ready to meet South Korean negotiators in "areas under control of the Taliban" or in another country, so long as the Taliban representatives received a UN guarantee of safe return. Ahmadi also warned that other prisoners could be killed “at any time”, given that no ultimatum had been fixed.

The South Korean embassy in Kabul has great expectations for the outcome of the Bush-Karzai meetings, even if Washington has frequently underlined the need to avoid giving in to terrorist demands and has expressed its favour for armed interventions.  Seoul has appealed diplomatically for “flexibility” in negotiations while anti- American sentiment mounts in Korea with protests and demonstrations calling for “the immediate withdrawal of Korean and US troops”.

In the meantime across the world prayers are being said for the 21 Christians.  The International Catholic Community in Kabul too is praying, tells Fr. Guiseppe Moretti.  The Parish priest of the only Church in the Country, within the confines of the Italian embassy told AsiaNews: “We have been praying for them for weeks now, without stop”.


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