Publish dateWednesday 21 March 2012 - 17:23
Story Code : 38291
Talks to free rebel-held Italians in India delayed
Talks to free two Italian men abducted by Maoist rebels in a poor eastern Indian state have been delayed because of a disagreement over the choice of negotiators, the state's chief minister said Wednesday.
The rebels have said Orissa's government has until Thursday to end security operations against them and release their fighters held in prison in exchange for the safe release of the Italians, who were abducted a week ago. Otherwise, they will hand the hostages over to rebels in a neighboring state, further complicating their safe return AP reported.

However, the two sides have agreed to negotiate as soon as they agree on their representatives.

One of the people suggested by the rebels to negotiate for them has been convicted of serious crimes and is therefore unacceptable to the government, Orissa's Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said. Another person had refused to act as a negotiator.

The rebels haven't responded to the names of three officials put forward Tuesday by the government as their representatives.

The Italians, Orissa tour operator Paolo Bosusco, 54, and tourist Claudio Colangelo, 61, were abducted on March 14 while on a trek through a densely forested area of Orissa. The Indian cook and driver they were with were released by the rebels the same day.

The rebels informed the media about the abduction on Saturday.

Police in Orissa say the rebels were most likely holding the men in rebel hideouts located deep in the jungle in Orissa's Kandamal district.

However, the government on Monday stopped all security operations in that district — another rebel demand in return for the men's release.

The rebels, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting in several Indian states for more than four decades demanding land and jobs for farmers and the poor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the insurgency India's biggest internal security threat. At least 2,000 police, militants, rebels and civilians have been killed in the conflict.
Source : Afghan Voice Agency (AVA), Kabul
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