Kidnap forces Filipinos out of Iraq

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The Independent Online

Humanitarian forces from the Philippines are to be withdrawn from Iraq, the country's Deputy Foreign Minister said in Manila yesterday after militants threatened to behead a Filipino truck driver being held hostage.

Humanitarian forces from the Philippines are to be withdrawn from Iraq, the country's Deputy Foreign Minister said in Manila yesterday after militants threatened to behead a Filipino truck driver being held hostage.

Rafael Seguis made his announcement on al-Jazeera television through Arabic translators. Mr Seguis said: "In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible."

A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, which is holding the hostage, has threatened to kill him unless Manila agrees to withdraw its troops by 20 July.

Meanwhile, pledges of European help for the interim government in Iraq were overshadowed yesterday when the Baghdad administration rejected calls for it to abolish the death penalty.

Attending his first meeting of EU ministers in Brussels, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, clashed with his EU counterparts over a request for Iraq to ban capital punishment. Mr Zebari said that, while the abolition of the death penalty was a long-term aspiration, his country's dire security situation meant that the deterrent effect of capital punishment remained necessary.

The future of the death penalty in Iraq is highly sensitive since the EU and the US have starkly different views on capital punishment. Ben Bot, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands which holds the EU presidency, said the Iraqis had been told that "we will not change our opposition to capital punishment".

Although all EU nations, including France, promised to help reconstruction, the ministers made it clear that because of the security situation, they are not yet ready to meet Iraqi calls to open a European Commission office in Baghdad.

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