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Iraq PM slams hostage video airing


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Bigley is seen behind bars in the video broadcast Wednesday.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has condemned the broadcasting of the most recent video of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, saying it is "repugnant" to use him as a "political pawn."

In an address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London on Thursday, Allawi criticized media coverage of hostage-takings, saying that such a tactic feeds on publicity. He also questioned whether such videos should be shown.

"My heart goes out to them and my prayers are with them and with Ken but I must say I'm saddened to see how the media has reacted to this issue," he said.

Allawi said media coverage had given the terrorists the publicity they sought and had not always been responsible.

"We therefore need to think long and hard about the way this kidnapping has been covered by the media," he added.

The British government has said it is ready to listen to kidnappers holding hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq but is not prepared to negotiate with them or pay them a ransom.

"We have a policy which we adhere to strictly and always, that we don't negotiate with hostage takers ... about for example paying ransoms or, in this case, about the release of ... two women prisoners," Straw told ITV on Thursday.

"But we also want Mr. Bigley released so, were the hostage takers to get in touch with us, we would obviously listen to what they have to say. That in no sense undermines our position.

"It may be that they are saying things which are consistent with our position which can nonetheless secure Mr. Bigley's release," said Straw, who urged the kidnappers to make contact.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that if Bigley's kidnappers made contact, "it would be something we would immediately respond to." (Full story)

Bigley was kidnapped from his Baghdad home September 16 with two Americans.

The Americans have been beheaded, and videos of the killings were posted on the Internet.

On Wednesday, an Arabic-language news channel broadcast video of Bigley caged behind bars. (Full story)

The Unification and Jihad group, led by al Qaeda militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of Bigley and the two Americans.

Meanwhile in the southern English resort of Brighton, Blair secured support from rank and file members of his Labour Party on Thursday for the involvement of British troops in Iraq.

Labour, which was split over the war, threw out a rebel motion at its party conference calling for the early withdrawal of troops, with 86 percent of delegates voting against it.

The vote would have been nonbinding, but analysts said it could have been humiliating for Blair, who is trying to draw a line under the divisive war and focus on a campaign for the next general election expected in May.


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