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Germany

Debate on Ransom Payments To Free Hostages in Iraq

Following the release of German hostages from captivity in Iraq, various German media have speculated about ransom payments. Officials have denied it and claim that confirmation of would encourage copycat kidnappings.

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The two German hostages Rene Bräunlich (left) and Thomas Nitzschke after landing in Berlin

Reinhard Silberberg, the head of the German foreign ministry's crisis team, vehemently denied any ransom paid by the German government to free hostages Bräunlich and Nitzschke.

"The German government will not allow itself to be blackmailed," Silberberg told the Leipziger Volkszeitu n g newspaper. "It is a basic principle of the government to reject ransom payments."

Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler, Minister meanwhile urgently warned Germans not to travel to Iraq.

"We hope that the current kidnapping case will make people realize that they should take our warnings seriously," he told the Berli n er Zeitu n g daily. He added that all foreigners in Iraq are in danger, and German companies with connections to Iraq should employ locals in the country, he said.

The hostages Bräunlich and Nitzschke are Leipzig-based engineers who had been working on short-term assignment in Iraq. They returned to Germany on Wednesday.

"Kid n appers had crimi n al a n d n ot political motives"

Gernot Erler

Minister of State Gernot Erler

Erler said the government was certain that Bräunlich's and Nitzschke's kidnappers, who had posed a serious of demands for the Germans' release, had acted out of criminal and not political motives.

"It was clear that this kidnapping did not have the support of politicians," he told the N-TV news channel on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Erler had said the government would not comment on ransom reports for fear of encouraging copycat kidnappings. Wolfgang Bosbach, the Christian Democrat's Deputy Floor Leader in Parliament, warned that copycat actions could occur. He told the Berli n er Zeitu n g that it was common knowledge that once word of possible ransom was in the air, regardless of whether it was actually paid or not, other nationals abroad were immediately put in danger.

Iraq 's ambassador to Germa n y believes ra n som was paid

Iraq's ambassador to Germany, Alaa Al-Hashimy, said he believed the German men had been released in exchange for payment.

"I don't know for sure, but I suspect that at the end a lot of money was paid," he told German public television on Wednesday.

Erler said the men had been released as a result of "help from our friends, all of our friends, including the Americans on the ground there."

The mens' kidnappers, members of a group called Ansar al-Tawheed wal Sunna (Followers of Unity and Prophetic Tradition), had repeatedly threatened to kill the two Germans in videotaped messages. The last tape, released in April, showed Nitzsckhe begging Berlin to save him and his colleague.

Hu n dreds of hostages i n Iraq

Entführte Deutsche Susanne Osthoff

Former German hostage Susanne Osthoff

In December 2005, German archeologist and aid worker Susanne Osthoff was held hostage in Iraq for more than three weeks.

The German government also refused to comment on reports then that a ransom had been paid for her release.

Dozens of foreigners are being held hostage in Iraq, as well as hundreds of Iraqis kidnapped by insurgents and criminal groups.

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