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British Leader Calls for Immediate Release of 5 Britons Kidnapped in Iraq

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for the immediate release of 5 British hostages abducted in Baghdad last May. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

For the first time since the 5 Britons were abducted on May 29 from a Finance Ministry compound by gunmen posing as police officers, a video released Tuesday by a group called the Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq showed one of the men being held. It was the first public evidence that the men might still be alive.

"My name is Jason and today is the 18th of November," said one of the hostages.

In that video, the captors say they will start to kill the hostages, who include four security guards and one computer expert, if Britain does not withdraw all of its remaining troops from Iraq soon.

Over the months, little if anything has been disclosed about what Britain is doing to gain the release of those held. On Sunday, Prime Minister Brown underlined that behind the scenes, things were being done.

"We will do everything in our power to secure what is our objective and that is the immediate release of the hostages," said Mr. Brown.

Speaking on Sky News, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband spoke of the stress the families of those being held are under.

"It is important that publicity is never confused with activity, and especially in a case like this, it is very, very important that we follow a very careful strategy," said Miliband. "The stress of the families is going to be huge. It is bad enough to have the hostage-taking. To then have the video coming out last week is just going to add, has added, hugely to the distress. But the whole of the British government is working very, very actively on this."

And as for Gordon Brown, he again stressed that Britain will not be making any kind of deal to gain the release of the five.

"The taking of hostages is completely unjustified, wholly unacceptable and we are making it absolutely clear that it will not change out policy in any way," said Mr. Brown.

Brown also praised Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and his government for their efforts to free the men.