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Germany

High Hopes for the Release of German Hostages in Iraq

In an interview with DW-WORLD.DE, the employer of two German hostages held in Iraq said that he was "absolutely confident" that the men would be released.

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Green ribbons have become a symbol of hope for the release of the two men

Peter Bienert, who heads Leipzig-based engineering firm Cryotec, said he was certain that Rene Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, who were kidnapped on Jan. 24, would be released.

"I feel confident that our colleagues are alive and will be released," he said. "Absolutely confident."

Bienert has had regular contact with German authorities. He said he spoke to the families of the two men yesterday, adding that the girlfriends and mothers of the engineers were in good spirits. The mothers have made active public appeals for their sons' release. But Bienert declined to speculate on the time frame for their release or comment more specifically on the reasons for his optimism.

"Thank God that we eastern Germans are more optimistic than the western Germans," he said. "We always had to struggle harder; we have had greater problems to overcome. We will get through this."

Nitzschke pleads for help in new video

Vermutlich die beiden Entführten Deutschen Rene Bräunlich l. und Thomas Nitzschke im Irak Videoaufnahme

Bräunlich (left) and Nitzschke in the new video

On Sunday, a new video of Bräunlich and Nitzschke, dated March 28, was posted on an Islamic Internet Web site.

"We have been held captive here for more than 60 days," Nitzschke pleaded in German. "We are close to breaking point. Please help us, please help us."

An emergency task force set up by the German government is analyzing the authenticity of the video. Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated in a news conference that everything possible would be done to obtain freedom for the hostages.

The abductors have issued demands for the release of Iraqis held in US prisons and warned Germany to stop aiding the US and Iraqi governments.

Vigils for the release of hostages

Mahnwache vor der Nikolaikirche in Leipzig

Bienert (second from left) at a previous vigil

Residents of Leipzig have turned out by the thousands in a show of support for the kidnapped engineers, some of them holding candlelight vigils and wearing green ribbons, symbolizing hope for their safe release.

The 21st vigil will be held Monday evening at the Nicholas Church.

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