Iranian hostage takers in talks

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The Independent Online
IRANIAN POLICE began negotiations yesterday with the suspected drug smugglers who kidnapped four Europeans and their Iranian tour guide at the weekend, a Spanish diplomat said.

The Spanish charge d'affaires in Tehran, Juan Carlos Gafo, said the negotiations were being conducted through an intermediary. Speaking in a telephone interview with Associated Press, he said the kidnappers were members of a drug-trafficking gang and their identities were known to the authorities.

The Iranian Interior Ministry confirmed that drug traffickers were responsible for the kidnapping.The five were abducted at gunpoint on Saturday night from a hotel in Kerman, 550 miles southeast of Tehran. Kerman lies on the main drug-smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan and Europe.

A day earlier, Mr Gafo told Spain's RNE radio that the kidnappers apparently wanted to trade their hostages - three Spanish, one Italian and one Iranian - for money or the release of jailed colleagues.

A Spanish eyewitness said the kidnappers picked out the tourists closest to the door of the hotel's restaurant and passed over the women. (AP)