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Afghan, UN Officials Issue New Appeal for Release of Kidnapped Workers

One week after the abduction of three foreign election workers in Afghanistan, Afghan and United Nations officials are hoping for a breakthrough in negotiations with the kidnappers. The abductors have indefinitely extended the deadline for their demands.

Authorities in Afghanistan are declining to discuss the apparent negotiating attempt because of security concerns. The kidnappers have issued conflicting and shifting deadlines to kill the hostages if their demands are not met. On Thursday, they reportedly suspended any deadline in order to pursue talks.

The three U.N. staff members - an Irish woman, a Filipino man and a woman from Kosovo - had been helping organize post-war elections in Afghanistan when they were abducted last week.

U.N. Spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva says the Afghan government is seeking tips on the identity and location of the kidnappers.

"The Ministry of Interior has established a hot line with telephones that Afghans can call to provide information on this case," he said.

The abductors describe themselves as the Jaish-e Muslimeen, or Muslim Army, and some reports identify the group as a breakaway faction of Afghanistan's former Taleban regime.

But few details are known about the group, and the man telephoning news organizations on behalf of the kidnappers is believed to be a Pakistani, based on his accent.

The abductors have demanded the release of all Muslim prisoners of war and terror suspects held in Afghanistan and at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

They also want a withdrawal of all U.N. operations in Afghanistan. The government has rejected this, citing the country's membership in the world body and the need for U.N. assistance in Afghanistan's post-war reconstruction.