Brown discusses Iraq hostages with Maliki

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown held telephone talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today about video footage of one of five British hostages being held by militants in Iraq.

The Britons - a computer instructor and his four bodyguards - were seized by a Shi'ite militant group from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in a brazen raid in Baghdad last May.

Video footage of one of the captives was aired yesterday by Al Arabiya television, which said the captive called for the release of nine Iraqis in return for their freedom.

Brown's spokesman said the prime minister had been "in close contact" with Maliki about the case and had "discussed it again with him over the phone this morning".

"Both leaders deplored the taking and public parading of hostages and agreed to continue their close cooperation to secure their early release," Brown's spokesman said.

An Iraqi embassy spokeswoman said Maliki was in London, but declined to give any more details.

The hostage, who said in the video that his name was Peter, appeared tired but not distressed. He had a scraggly beard and wore what appeared to be a white and black track suit.

"I miss my family a lot and the only thing I want is to get out of here. I tell Gordon Brown: Free their prisoners and we can go home," he said in remarks dubbed into Arabic.

Militants holding the five Britons released a video last December showing another of the hostages, who identified himself as Jason, saying they would kill one of the five unless Britain withdrew its troops from Iraq.

The December video gave Britain a deadline of 10 days to withdraw its troops but there was no sign that any of the hostages was subsequently killed.