Negotiations with Iraq kidnappers ‘ongoing’

The government has insisted negotiations to free five Britons held hostage in Iraq for exactly one year are still ongoing.

The families of the hostages are marking the anniversary by launching a joint appeal for their immediate release.

All the hostages are civilian contractors who were abducted when armed men stormed the Iraqi ministry of finance in Baghdad on May 29th 2007.

A spokesman at the Foreign Office told it was doing “everything we can” to secure the release of the hostages and remained in “close contact” with their families while negotiations with kidnappers continued.

Two videos have been released by the kidnappers since then, with a hostage referred to only as Jason accusing the UK government of forgetting about their plight.

In the video, released last December, he also warned his captors – who call themselves the Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq – were planning to kill one of the hostages unless troops were withdrawn from Iraq.

Lincoln IT consultant Peter Moore, the only hostage to be identified in full, appeared in the second video to be released to Dubai-based al-Arabiya television station, where he urged Gordon Brown to release nine Iraqi prisoners in return for his freedom.

The Foreign Office revealed the kidnappers had requested a media blackout before releasing two videos of the Britons.

A spokesman stressed the government was trying to be “as open with the media as possible” and said coverage could have a very significant impact on the course of the kidnap.

“Obviously we can’t say anything that might endanger the hostages, prolong their ordeal or help the hostage-takers,” he continued.