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    HOSTAGE TAKING CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED

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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow believes there can be no excuse for the hostage taking, official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko said on Tuesday after unidentified armed persons seized Russian citizens in Iraq.

    "At issue is the hostage taking of people who arrived in Iraq at this very difficult moment for the friendly country to help the Iraqi people restore their peaceful life," said Mr. Yakovenko.

    "We are demanding that those who organized and perpetrated this action immediately free these innocent people," said the spokesman.

    The seized experts worked at the construction site of an electric power plant in Baghdad, the facility of vital importance for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

    On Monday evening, a group of armed people broke into the house where experts of the Russian Interenergoservice company were living in Baghdad, seized nine people and took them in an unidentified direction. One of the hostages was set free on the way. Nobody has assumed responsibility for this action yet.

    Since last night, the Russian side, including the Russian embassy in Iraq, has been actively trying to find out more about the seized experts and have them freed as soon as possible.

    According to the statement of the Russian foreign ministry, "hostage taking of foreign citizens in Iraq results from the aggravated situation in that country whose security is now the responsibility of the coalition forces."

    "Moscow is convinced of the need for a cease-fire, stabilization and settlement, including with the help of all Iraqi political forces, which would restore Iraq's sovereignty," the statement underlines.

    The Russian foreign ministry again recommends that Russian citizens avoid traveling to Iraq.

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