Hostage Briton's parents see their hopes dashed

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The Independent Online
Parents of a British hostage held in northern India said their "hopes were crushed" yesterday, when the Foreign Office rejected reports that a British negotiator was talking to the kidnappers.

Mavis Mangan's son, Keith, is one of two Britons held hostage by Kashmiri separatists for almost six months. An American and a German are also being held captive by the militant group, known as al-Faran.

Tim Devlin, Tory MP for Stockton South, where Mrs Mangan lives, said the Foreign Office had informed him that the kidnappers had agreed to deliver Christmas gifts to the hostages. The gifts included winter clothing and tapes and letters from the Mangans and the family of the other British hostage, Paul Wells. He also said that he had been told by the Foreign Office that the High Commission in India "had made contact" with the kidnappers.

Mrs Mangan told the Independent she was telephoned by the Foreign Office yesterday and told to ignore Mr Devlin's comments. "We were told there was no truth in what he said. There had been no meeting. No negotiations at all.

"We were so disappointed.One minute we were all on cloud nine. Now we are simply crushed to the floor again."

However the Foreign Office denied the two versions of the situation were contradictory. A spokesman said: "We are not confused."

A British newspaper report yesterday detailed a telephone conversation with Sir Nicholas Fenn, the Indian High Commissioner in New Delhi, and a representative of al-Faran. The same conversation had been reported in a Calcutta newspaper earlier this month. The dialogue between Sir Nicholas and the man from al-Faran shows the kidnappers scaling down their demands in favour of a compensation package - effectively a deal involving money that will give al-Faran a ransom to cover costs incurred over the months of the kidnap.

However, Sir Nicholas stated there could be no question of acceding to demands for money in any form.