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Rebels To Release Chinese Hostages As Soon As Possible

An Ethiopian man walks past a closed Chinese resturant in the capital Addis Ababa 26 April 2007, in respect to their slained fellow citizens. Gunmen killed 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese in a pre-dawn raid on an oil field that Ethiopia blamed on rebels backed by regional foe Eritrea, that has caused renewed tension between the two countries. Ethiopian state television reported Thursday that the bodies of the nine slain Chinese had arrived in a hospital in Addis Ababa, awaiting instructions from their families for repatriation. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Addis Ababa (AFP) Apr 26, 2007
Ethiopian rebels holding seven Chinese oil workers captured during an attack this week on an oil venture in Ethiopia said Thursday they would release them "as soon as possible".

"They are very well. We are planning to release them to the ICRC (International Committee for the Red Cross), we'll do that as soon possible when the proper arrangements are done," said Abderahmane Mahdi, a spokesman for the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

"The situation is very complex because Ethiopia will take any advantage to kill them and to blame us," he told AFP by telephone from London, warning Ethiopia against an armed attempt to try to free the hostages.

An ICRC spokeswoman said Thursday that the Ethiopian rebels had not yet been in touch.

"For the time being, we have not been approached or contacted at all," Anna Schaaf said in Geneva.

The ONLF claimed responsibility for Tuesday's dawn attack on a Chinese-run oil venture in Ogaden, where the separatist group is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis.

Seventy-seven people were killed in the assault, including nine Chinese nationals.

The Chinese embassy in Ethiopia on Thursday expressed hope for the quick release of their seven workers.

"We're hoping that they'll be released soon. There are some good signs but I can't tell you more," embassy spokeswoman Sun Qing told AFP.

Ethiopian Information Minister Zemedkum Tekle said that a rescue operation was underway in the country's remote eastern region.

"We are going to use any appropriate mechanism to secure the release of the Chinese. We have our own ways, I can't tell you more," he told AFP.

However, Mahdi warned against heavy-handed attempts to free the oil workers.

"If the authorities are launching an armed operation to recover the Chinese it might be very dangerous for the lives of these men. We'll resist any attempt to do so. But it would be senseless as we want to release them," he said.

He also said eight rebel fighters had died in Tuesday's attack.

Authorities in the Somali region, which includes Ogaden, decreed two days of mourning starting Thursday in memory of victims of the attack.

Ethiopian state television reported Thursday that the bodies of the nine slain Chinese had arrived in a hospital in Addis Ababa, awaiting instructions from their families for repatriation.

Tuesday's raid was the first on an Ethiopian oil exploration site since the ONLF issued a threat to foreign companies operating in the region a year ago.

Chinese oil major Sinopec said Thursday it had no plans to pull out of resource-rich African region despite the attack.

Sinopec is the parent company of Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, the operator of the Ogaden oil venture.

"We've launched a contingency plan alerting all overseas projects to pay more attention to security," a Sinopec official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"But we are not talking about ceasing projects or changing our strategy or anything like that," the official added.

Predominantly barren, the Ogaden has long been extremely poor, but in recent years the discovery of gas and oil has brought both hopes of wealth, and new causes of conflict.

The Ethiopian authorities have accused Eritrea, with which they have a border conflict, of supporting the Ogaden separatists.

The Eritreans have denied the claim.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Germany Wants To Become World Leader In Energy Efficiency
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Germany on Thursday unveiled proposals to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent within 13 years and become the most energy-efficient country in the world.

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