Afghanistan and Italy have expressed confidence that kidnapped Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni will be released safely.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told a Kabul news conference Saturday the government has been in regular contact with the kidnappers who seized Ms. Cantoni May 16th and that leaders are optimistic she will be freed.

Later, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed similar views to journalists after speaking with Italy's intelligence minister about the case.

The statements came a day after Afghan religious leaders issued a fatwa, or religious decree, pledging death to anyone killing a foreigner who is in the country legally.

Ms. Cantoni, who is 32, has run a Care International food distribution program in Kabul for three years, assisting thousands of widows and orphans.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.