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    WHO IS BEHIND RUSSIAN HOSTAGE-TAKING IN IRAQ?

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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Responsibility for Russian hostage-taking in Iraq can be laid only with the forces which are seeking no improvement of the Iraqi situation and no free future for the country. This opinion was expressed in a phone interview Tuesday by well-known Iraqi political affairs analyst Jalal al-Mashta, editor-in-chief of the influential An-Nahda newspaper.

    These are the same people who have masterminded the acts of terrorism and sabotage at vital facilities, he said. It is we, the Iraqi people, who stand to lose when work is being upset at our major electric power plant where, as the electrification minister told me, Russian experts are contributing selflessly, said Jalal al-Mashta.

    In his opinion, this action was not aimed specifically against Russian interests because people are captured at random, without any bias or real cause. People of different nationalities are taken prisoner, said the journalist..

    Al Mashta has reported that virtually all members of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), many ministers and the press have been involved in the effort to set the foreign hostages free.

    He thinks however that additional measures should be taken to protect foreigners in Iraq. Now that the interior ministry has undergone sweeping reshuffles with a resultant vacuum, actually created by the Americans and the forces of Western coalition as a whole, we are repeating what has been sown, said Al Mashta. Security measures have been toughened but what is required is more stability.

    The Iraqi analyst has given the lie to certain mass media allegations about the hostage-taking being a provocation on the part of the Americans. In his opinion, the Americans have taken upon themselves under the UN resolution to maintain tranquility in the country and therefore any act of this kind is a blow at their prestige in Iraq," he said. (Asked some time before about the forces standing behind the kidnapping, the Moscow al-Jazeera office chief Akram Huzam alleged those were the forces seeking to persuade Russia to revise its position toward the American campaign in Iraq).

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