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Austrian Leader Calls for Unconditional Release of Abducted Tourists in Tunisia


Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer is calling for the unconditional release of two Austrian tourists kidnapped by alleged al-Qaida terrorists while traveling in Tunisia.

Mr. Gusenbauer issued his plea Friday shortly after arriving in Brussels for a summit of European Union leaders. The chancellor says his priority is for the health of the hostages.

But Mr. Gusenbauer says Austria will not meet the terrorists' demands.

A group that identifies itself as al-Qaida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb announced in an Internet statement that it is holding Wolfgang Ebner and his girlfriend Andrea Kloiber, who vanished in February. The group is demanding the release of prisoners being held in Tunisia and Algeria in exchange for the couple.

The group said Austria has until midnight Sunday to comply with the demands.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik says efforts are being made to secure Ebner and Kloiber's release, but notes the kidnapper's demands are out of her country's jurisdiction.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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