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Foreign minister defends hostage position

Swiss diplomats are doing all they can to ensure the safety of a Swiss hostage being held in the Philippines, says Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

Calmy-Rey told the Zurich-based Blick tabloid in an interview published on Wednesday that a crisis unit from the foreign ministry had recently met the family of Andreas Notter. All parties agreed that efforts to free him should be spearheaded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), she said.

Notter was working for the Geneva-based ICRC when Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped him, along with two others, in January in the Philippines island of Jolo. One of the other hostages is Italian, while the third is a Philippines national.

Calmy-Rey said the foreign ministry was working closely with the Italian authorities through political and diplomatic channels to find a solution. She added that she would be meeting Notter's family shortly.

Her comments follow criticism in the press on Tuesday by Notter's family, who said the ministry should be doing more.

In an open letter published in the Aargauer Zeitung newspaper, they said Calmy-Rey should call Philippines President Gloria Arroyo and demand the withdrawal of government forces from the island in order to protect the hostages.

The captors clashed with Philippines troops last week and have threatened to behead Notter or Italian hostage Eugenio Vagni if the soldiers do not stay away from the area.

swissinfo with agencies


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