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Angola Press: No negotiations taking place for hostages` release – Militants

Lagos, Nigeria, 03/13 – Nigerian militants holding three foreign oil workers said on Sunday there had been no negotiations for the release of the abducted workers, despite government`s claims that discussions of their release was underway.
“The hostages are going nowhere. There have been no meetings so far between the government and our appointed intermediary,” militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) told PANA in an e-mail Sunday.
“The Nigerian government is not interested in a lasting solution to the Niger Delta problem, preferring instead to pay out bribes in exchange for a suspension of our campaign against the oil industry,” MEND said.
The militants added: “We have rejected several such offers of bribery channelled through a few individuals known to us, preferring rather a negotiated solution to the control of the resources of the Niger Delta by its indigene.”
They said, however, that the hostages would not be harmed “for as long as the Nigerian government understands that they endanger the lives of these hostages in carrying out attacks such as the last blunder by the Nigerian military in Okerenkoko a few days back.”
Shortly after the abduction, the Nigerian government set up a panel, headed by Delta state governor James Ibori, to negotiate for the hostages` release.
MEND, which is campaigning for more control of the oil-producing region`s resources, kidnapped nine foreign oil workers on 18 February but released six of them in early March, holding on to two from the US and one from Britain.
The militants have said the abducted workers would only be released if the government agrees to release two leaders of the dominant Ijaw ethnic group and Shell pays US$1.5 billion in compensation for environmental pollution.
But in an indication they were willing to negotiate, the militants last week announced the appointment of former oil-rich Bayelsa state spokesman, Oronto Douglas, as their official negotiator.
There has been no public response from the government to the appointment.
MEND`s campaign, which started late last year, has led to a 20 percent slash in Nigeria`s daily oil production of 2.5 million barrels and forced Shell, Nigeria`s largest oil production company, to evacuate hundreds of staff members from the affected areas.

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