Italy suggests NATO, UN guidelines on ransoms

ROME - Italy, criticised over a prisoner swap with the Taleban last month, said on Thursday NATO and the United Nations should consider guidelines about appropriate ways to respond in hostage crises.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 12 Apr 2007, 9:34 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:06 PM

Addressing parliament, Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema defended the release of five jailed Taleban to free Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo, kidnapped in Afghanistan.

The Taleban beheaded Mastrogiacomo’s Afghan driver last month and his Afghan translator last week.

D’Alema said kidnapping cases were too sensitive to create a blanket no-negotiation rule.

“At the same time, I think it’s time to explore the possibility of guidelines shared on an international level, a code of shared behaviour,” D’Alema said. “I think, for example, in the case of Afghanistan, of a discussion at NATO.”

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has agreed to a debate on whether to have a policy on hostage deals following requests from several countries, a NATO spokesman said.

Critics of the Taleban swap, including the United States and Britain, said it encouraged further kidnappings and endangered NATO troops by returning jailed guerrillas to the battlefield.

Apparently emboldened by the hostage deal, the Taleban have since kidnapped two French aid workers and three Afghan companions. They are also holding five Afghan health workers.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ruled out similar deals with the Taleban in future. He and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi have been accused of applying a double standard by taking extraordinary measures to free Italians but not Afghans.

But D’Alema said Rome had also sought the release of the Afghans kidnapped with Mastrogiacomo and that the Taleban broke the deal by only freeing the Italian. Karzai only released the Taleban because they posed “limited danger”, D’Alema added.

The kidnap saga has further eroded Prodi’s efforts to rally allies behind his foreign policy, the weakest link of the year-old government, and given fresh ammunition to the centre-right opposition.

“It’s sent the message of a government that is all too ready to bow to ransoms,” Roberto Maroni of the right-wing Northern League party.

Even the Italian charity organisation in Afghanistan which mediated the swap has turned against the government. It blames Rome for failing to win the release of one of its staff arrested by Afghan authorities and also revealed Italy paid a $2 million ransom for an

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