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Recent Kidnappings Unnerve Aid Workers in Iraq    - 2004-09-08

Foreign aid organizations are mulling over whether to cease operating in Iraq, following the kidnapping of two Italian aid workers. Meanwhile, Iraq continues to be the centerpiece of the sometimes bitter U.S. presidential election campaign as the death toll of U.S. military personnel in the war passed 1,000.

Aid agencies operating in Iraq have tightened their security measures and are discussing their future course of action following the abduction of two of their Italian colleagues.

A large party of armed men raided a building in Baghdad Tuesday and took four hostages, including two 29-year-old Italian aid workers. The action stunned Baghdad's aid community and prompted internal debate among aid organizations about whether the security situation merited staying.

Hannah Adwar of the al Amel Association praised the work of the group Bridges to Baghdad and appealed for the workers' release.

"They have brought with them for Iraq, love, treatment, help and they are trying to make a healthy society in Iraq," said Hannah Adwar. "During the sanction time we always remembered the tremendous work [that] has been done by this organization. So we are appealing to all people to these kidnappers that please do not hurt our friends [the] Simonas."

Two French journalists have been missing since they were abducted August 20.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the uncertain security environment in Iraq could undermine efforts to hold elections there in January.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military death toll in Iraq passed the 1,000 mark Wednesday. The milestone came as the U.S. presidential campaign got into high gear following the September 6 Labor Day holiday, and the issue of Iraq is center stage of the political debate.

Speaking in the House of Representatives Wednesday, Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democrat from the state of Washington, accused President Bush of misleading the public about the rationale for the war and said Election Day will be a day of reckoning.

"The truth has fallen alongside those brave U.S. soldiers," he said. "We can't bring them back but we can honor them by demanding the truth on the second of November. It's coming, Mr. President."

Meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House, President Bush praised the sacrifice of those who died, and pledged to continue the course in Iraq that he started.

"They are serving in a great cause," said President Bush. "We mourn every loss of life. We will honor their memories by completing the mission."

U.S. warplanes hit suspected insurgent strongholds in the city of Fallujah Wednesday while U.S. troops and insurgents waged ground battles in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.