Ethiopia's foreign minister says his government has been in contact with the kidnappers of five Europeans being held hostage in the Afar region.

Seyoum Mesfin told reporters Saturday, the government has ruled out a military operation to free the captives. He said the kidnappers are being reached through "different channels," and he urged the safe release of the hostages.

Eight Ethiopians also are being held.

Speaking today from Brussels, British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett acknowledged receiving word that the hostages are safe. She said their location is still not known.

The Europeans were abducted earlier this month while traveling with 13 Ethiopian drivers and translators in Afar, a remote and barren region that stretches across Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea. Five of the Ethiopians are believed to have been released.

The Europeans include three British men, a French woman, and a woman with British and Italian nationality. They are linked to the British embassy in Addis Ababa.

Seyoum told reporters Thursday that tribal leaders had seen the group in the Afar region. A regional tribesman said the Europeans were taken across the border into Eritrea, which has denied any involvement in the kidnapping.


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