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By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A French aid worker kidnapped two days ago in Sudan's Darfur region is in good health and no ransom has been demanded, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said Saturday.
The kidnapping of Gauthier Lefevre was the latest in a wave of abductions of foreign workers in Darfur since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in March.
"The captors confirmed that Gauthier was OK but we were not able to talk to him," ICRC spokeswoman Tamara al-Rifai said. "They made no specific requests."
The abduction took place just days after the release of two women working for the Irish aid agency Goal who had been held for more than 100 days on a mountain in Darfur.
They said their kidnappers told them they just wanted money.
Tribal leader Musa Hilal, who was involved in mediating the women's release, said he was told a ransom had been paid, which was denied by Sudan.
"What I heard from those on the ground is that they were given some money but from where I don't know," Hilal told Reuters. "They would not keep them for 100 odd days and then just release them without ... any money."
He said he intervened to stop the kidnappers taking the women into Chad after the Sudanese government refused to pay the initial ransom of 500 million Sudanese pounds (135,000 pounds) they had demanded.
Sudan's State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Abdel Baqi al-Jailani said he gave money to some tribal chiefs for cars and fuel to help the mediation but denied a ransom was paid.
"Anyone who says that a ransom was paid must be the ones who paid it," he said.
Goal denied paying a ransom and the Irish Foreign Ministry was quoted on Irish radio denying paying any money.
Two U.N.-African Union peacekeepers taken almost two months ago and remain in captivity.
None of the kidnappers have been apprehended. Jailani said he was optimistic Lefevre would be released soon.
Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in early 2003. Heavy fighting has largely subsided but law and order has collapsed in many areas with the spread of arms.
The rebel Justice and Equality Movement said Lefevre was abducted after meeting their troops in the Jabel Moun area in West Darfur.
"All these kidnappings happen in government-controlled areas," JEM spokesman Ahmed Adam said. "We hold the government totally responsible."
The ICRC said it saw no link between the meeting and the kidnapping.
(Additional reporting by Andras Gergely in Dublin, Editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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