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Germany

Iraqi Leader Calls Kidnapping of German "Terrorist Act"

Iraqi President Talabani has denounced the kidnapping of a German archaeologist while a top German official said the act may have been more criminal than political.

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Talabani pledges to "work with Germany in every possible way"

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told a German newspaper that he took the kidnapping of archaeologist Susanne Ostoff personally, and said he is in constant contact with Iraqi security forces on the matter.

"We want to find out as quickly as possible where she is being kept, in order to free her from the grip of the terrorists," he told Germany's Neue Os n abrücker Zeitu n g. His country would work with the German government on the matter "in every possible way, in order to free the hostage Susanne Ostoff," he said.

Civilia n target

Osthoff and her Iraqi driver were seized last Friday, and were pictured in a videotape blindfolded with armed militants standing beside them. The militants are reportedly demanding that Germany cease its dealings with Talabani's government or they will kill the hostages.

Entführte Deutsche Susanne Osthoff

Kidnapped German archeologist Osthoff

Germany opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq and has refused to send troops there, but has been training Iraqi soldiers and police outside the country.

Speaking to the newspaper, Talabani said the kidnapping shows the true face of terror. Germany didn't take part in the Iraq war, and the hostage is not connected to the military.

"Susanne Ostoff is a civilian, but the terrorists kidnapped her anyway," he said. "I deeply abhor this act of terror, and give my deepest sympathy and solidarity to the family and friends of those kidnapped."

Meanwhile, new German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he has not ruled out that the kidnapping is a criminal, rather than a political, act; he points to the poor film quality, and the lack of a religious message on the tape.

It can't be judged the work of criminals on that basis alone, Steinmeier said. But, he added, "I consider it a possible, if not certain, conclusion."

No co n tact with hostage

So far, no contact has been made with Osthoff through a middleman, and no real progress in the six-day-old case has been made. He repeated his promise that the government would proceed with the case "with judgement and sensitivity."

Der deutsche Bundesaußenminister Frank Walter Steinmeier in Italien

Steinmeier says kidnapping may be a criminal act

Osthoff had been working on the renovation of a historical house in Iraq since May. She was warned by authorities that her stay was not safe, a local official told the Associated Press.

According to Talabani, the extremists are not trying to "resist the coalition," they are merely trying to destroy the democratization process, and ruin the chances for Iraq to rebuild. Theirs are simply "criminal acts against innocent civilians and against peace in Iraq," he said.

Talaba n i: "We n eed support"

Iraq needs international support "to keep expanding our security forces, in order to prevent such horrific crimes in the future, and so that the nascent democracy in my country can be a success," Talabani added.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said the incident shows that Germany is not immune from terrorism.

"It would be fatal to think, simply because we were not military involved in the Iraq war, that we're on the safe side," Bosbach told the Netzeitu n g.

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