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Manila Suspends Sending Workers to Iraq - 2004-07-08


Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has suspended sending workers to Iraq, following reports that militants have kidnapped a Filipino. The militants have threatened to kill the man unless Philippine troops withdraw from Iraq.

Philippine diplomats are coordinating with Iraqi officials on the status of a man, reportedly a Philippine national, kidnapped by militants. Foreign affairs spokesman Gilberto Asuque spoke in Manila. He says the Philippine government will exert all efforts to identify and help the captive.

President Gloria Arroyo called an emergency cabinet meeting and ordered the labor department to stop all Filipino workers going to Iraq. There are at least four-thousand Filipino workers there.

The country's top envoy to the Middle East, Roy Cimatu, also appealed to Filipinos employed by contractors in Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to avoid driving cargo vehicles into Iraq.

The Arab television network Al Jazeera reported the kidnappers are demanding Philippine troops leave Iraq. They threatened to execute their captive within three days (72 hours) if Manila does not comply. The Philippines, a staunch supporter of Washington's war on terror, has about 50 soldiers and policemen in Iraq.

Last month, a South Korean translator was kidnapped and beheaded by a group seeking the withdrawal of South Korean troops from Iraq.

Thousands of Filipinos seek jobs in the Middle East to escape poverty at home. In May, four Filipino workers were killed in a mortar attack on a U.S. air base in northern Iraq.

President Arroyo has previously said Philippine troops will remain in Iraq for reconstruction work. But she also said security would be a prime consideration for their continued presence.