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Ministers maintain hostage efforts

Switzerland is continuing its efforts aimed at the release of a Swiss hostage being held in the Philippines, with further interventions by two ministers.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has received the family of Andreas Notter, an employee of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who has been in the hands of Abu Sayyaf militants on the Philippines island of Jolo since the middle of January.

Also attending the meeting on Wednesday were members of the ministry crisis unit and representatives of the ICRC.

Calmy-Rey assured the family that her ministry was doing everything it could, a spokesman said on Thursday.

She had also telephoned her Philippines counterpart. But she said on Tuesday that efforts to free Notter and two other hostages seized with him – an Italian man and a Philippines woman – were being spearheaded by the ICRC.

Meanwhile Hans-Rudolf Merz, who holds this year's rotating Swiss presidency, has spoken to the Philippines president, Gloria Arroyo, but no details of their conversation have been released.

The ICRC said on Thursday that the hostages were able to contact their families on Sunday and the ICRC on Monday. They were physically and emotionally drained, the organisation's representative for the region reported.

The captors clashed with Philippines troops last week and have repeatedly 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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