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Red Cross in dialogue over access to POWs

Riley
Sgt. James Riley is one of seven U.S. soldiers being held as prisoners by Iraqi troops.

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KUWAIT CITY (CNN) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday its teams in Iraq and Kuwait were negotiating over access to Iraqi and U.S. prisoners of war.

"We have approached both sides. Already we are in dialogue and at this point the dialogue is constructive," said ICRC spokeswoman Tamara Alrifai.

While there won't be access "at this point," she said, "I can say that we don't really have reason that we won't have access to those people."

In Baghdad, Roland Huguenin-Benjamin, an ICRC spokesman, said the organization "most probably" will get to see the U.S. prisoners of war in Iraq.

"As soon as it will be physically feasible, the visits are supposed to take place," the spokesman said.

The parties gave assurances to the ICRC before the conflict that they would follow the principles of the Geneva Conventions if war erupted, including Red Cross visits. Both sides have accused the other of violations of the conventions.

Iraqi troops have taken seven U.S. soldiers as prisoners, including chief warrant officers Ronald D. Young Jr. and David S. Williams, whose Apache helicopter went down in Karbala on Monday.

The other five soldiers were captured when Iraqi forces ambushed an Army supply convoy near Nasiriya. They are Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, Pfc. Patrick Miller, Spc. Shoshana Johnson, Sgt. James Riley and Spc. Edgar Hernandez.

More than 4,000 Iraqi POWs have been taken, a Central Command spokesman said Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on combatants Wednesday to treat prisoners humanely, saying that "they should not be humiliated, nor should they be made objects of public exhibition."


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