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The Netherlands negotiates with Libya over captured soldiers

The Dutch defense ministry said negotiations for the release of three marines held in Libya continue. The three were captured by militias loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi during a botched evacuation of two Europeans.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Dutch Prime Minister Rutte calls for media restraint

A spokesman for the Dutch government said on Friday that officials were working to free a three-strong Dutch marine helicopter crew held in Libya by militias loyal to the country's embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"We are still in the process of intensive negotiations regarding the release of our soldiers," Otte Beeksma told the news agency AFP.

The government declined to discuss the details of its efforts to secure the three marines' release.

People fleeing the unrest in Libya wait to receive clothes, on the border with Tunisia

Tens of thousands of Libyans and foreigners have fled the violence

"It is of utmost importance that the soldiers come back to our country healthy," Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the Dutch media. "That means at the same time that everything that is said about this needs to be restrained."

The two helicopter pilots - including one woman - and the loadmaster have not been identified. They were taking part in an evacuation operation on Sunday to rescue two Europeans trapped in Sirte in northern Libya by the unrest. As they attempted to leave, armed men prevented their Lynx helicopter from taking off.

The two Europeans were initially seized along with the marines but were then handed over to the Dutch embassy in Tripoli. They have since left the country.

Libyan TV says Dutch broke international law

On Thursday evening, Libyan state television showed a video of the soldiers and said the Dutch soldiers had entered Libyan air space "in breach of international law." The Libyan footage, which appeared to show the soldiers in good health, was later aired by Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Spokesman Beeksma confirmed that the Netherlands had not sought authorization by Libya for the operation.

Author: Holly Fox (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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