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Gulf war hostages lobby MPs for loans

HOSTAGES held as Saddam Hussein's Gulf war 'human shield' asked the Government yesterday for loans to give them 'a breathing space to deal with appalling psychological trauma'.

Fifty former hostages, some of whom lost their jobs, homes and possessions and have suffered anxiety and panic attacks, lobbied MPs. Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South, tabled an early day motion calling on the Government to force Iraq to comply with a UN compensation scheme and to give the victims 'temporary loans, like the Maxwell pensioners'.

Andy Charles, chair of Hostages of the Middle East, said 800 British citizens were taken hostage after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait two years ago and nearly 1,500 went into hiding. One was murdered, eight died from heart attacks or committed suicide, up to 17 women were raped and 70 captives were seriously assaulted, some suffering mock executions.

The Government's response had been 'thoroughly inadequate'.

Financial worries had compounded their 'untreated emotional and psychological problems'. Loans, to be repaid after victims received compensation through the United Nations, would 'release the pressure'.

Don Major, 57, the father of Wendy Major, 32, a former captive, died of a heart attack in Baghdad after she and her mother, Brenda, 55, were freed. Ms Major and her mother are being evicted from their Southampton home, where they have been living on social security, in September. She said: 'Since my dad died everything has gone wrong. I have poor vision, bad anxiety, I have lost teeth and get bad headaches.

'Mum has really gone down hill and I find it hard to look after her. She's depressed, she drinks. She talks to my dad every night. It's horrible.'

Matthew Lee, 60, an engineer, who hid in a cupboard under stairs in a Kuwaiti block of flats for almost five months and was assaulted by soldiers, said he was destitute. 'I have made 1,000 applications for jobs but I have not got one.'

Under a UN scheme set up last year, up to 30 per cent of Iraqi oil revenues can be used to compensate the victims but Iraq has refused to comply. The Foreign Office last night ruled out government help. Taxpayers' money should not be advanced to claimants against a foreign government, a spokeswoman said.

(Photograph omitted)