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Pakistan Works to Free Kidnapped UN Official

Pakistan says it has good leads in efforts to free a kidnapped U.N. official whose captors have set a deadline to kill him.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said Saturday he hopes authorities will succeed in freeing John Solecki, a U.N. refugee agency employee kidnapped in southwestern Pakistan nearly two weeks ago.

A previously unknown group calling itself the Baluchistan Liberation United Front has claimed responsibility for kidnapping Solecki. On Friday, the group demanded the release within 72 hours of 141 ethnic Baluch women who the kidnappers say are being detained by Pakistani authorities

Malik says he is not aware any of those Baluch women are in custody.

A U.N. spokesperson says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke Saturday with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and that they agreed on the need to secure Solecki's safe and immediate release.

Mr. Ban says no cause can be served by prolonging the abduction of Solecki.

On Friday, a local news agency in Pakistan broadcast what appears to be video of Solecki pleading for his release. U.S. and U.N. officials have not confirmed the authenticity of the video, or whether the man in it is Solecki.

A VOA reporter in Pakistan says the video was sent to the Online News Agency on a cellphone memory card, along with the letter demanding the release of the 141 Baluch women. The group said it would soon issue a list of male prisoners as well.

Attacks on foreign workers in Pakistan have increased in recent months.

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