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2007/07/31 18:25 KST
(3rd LD) Roh's office blasts killing of second Korean hostage by Taliban militants

By Yoo Cheong-mo
SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae denounced Tuesday the killing of a second South Korean hostage in Afghanistan and threatened to take stern countermeasures if more Korean captives are killed by Taliban rebels.

   In a statement, spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said the kidnappers were killing the hostages while demanding a hostages-for-prisoners deal which he said is beyond the ability of the South Korean government to deliver. The Foreign Ministry earlier confirmed the death of the male hostage, 29-year-old Shim Sung-min.

   Cheon said the Seoul government is seriously looking at the newest Taliban-set negotiation deadline of Wednesday afternoon (Korean Standard Time) and will mobilize all possible means to prevent the deaths of more hostages.

   "The kidnappers are demanding the release of prisoners in Afghan jails in exchange for Korean nationals. But this demand is not within the power of the Korean government because it doesn't have any effective means to influence the decisions of the Afghan government," said the statement.

   "The Korean government strongly condemns and urges an immediate end to these heinous acts of killing innocent people in order to press for demands that it can't meet... Kidnapping and killing innocent people can't be justified for any cause."
The statement indirectly urged the United States, which exerts strong influence over the Afghan government, to be more flexible with its traditional policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists.

   "The government is well aware of how the international community deals with these kinds of abduction cases. But it also believes that it would be worthwhile to use flexibility in the cause of saving the precious lives of those still in captivity and is appealing the international community to do so," said the statement.

   The U.S. has reportedly opposed the Taliban's demand that Kabul swap jailed Taliban insurgents for the Korean hostages.

   The statement then made clear that the Korean government would not fail to react if any of the other hostages are killed.

   "Two Koreans have been slain. Despite that, the government will continue to do all it can to secure the safe and speedy release of the remaining Korean hostages. But the government makes it clear that it will not tolerate any further acts of harming innocent Koreans and hold will the perpetrators responsible."
However, Cheon stressed that the Seoul government remains unchanged in its opposition to any military operation meant to rescue the hostages, saying that dialogue should not be given up until the last moment.

   ycm@yna.co.kr
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