Khanduri's Help Sought In Expediting Hostages' Release

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New Delhi, Oct 11 (UNI) Uttarakhand Chief Minister B C Khanduri was urged today to impress on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the urgency of expediting release of 18 Indian hostage in the Aden Gulf, a relative said tonight.

''We met the Chief Minister and requested him to use his good offices,'' Seema Goyal, wife of Stolt Valor's Captain, Prabhat Goyal, said in a telephone interview from her home in Dehradun.

The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked by 34 Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.

The pirates demanded million-- subsequently pared down to New Delhi, Oct 11 (UNI) Uttarakhand Chief Minister B C Khanduri was urged today to impress on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the urgency of expediting release of 18 Indian hostage in the Aden Gulf, a relative said tonight.

''We met the Chief Minister and requested him to use his good offices,'' Seema Goyal, wife of Stolt Valor's Captain, Prabhat Goyal, said in a telephone interview from her home in Dehradun.

The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked by 34 Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.

The pirates demanded $6 million-- subsequently pared down to $2.5 million-- for letting the ship sail.

Besides 18 Indians, the ship's 22 crew members include a Russian, a Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.

Major General (Retd) Khanduri is scheduled to visit New Delhi and meet Prime Minister Singh on Monday. Mrs Goyal this week conveyed a petition from Mumbai-based seamen's unions to Prime Minister Singh through Nautical Adviser M M Saggi.

There has been no word from the ship on the condition of hostages who were reported to be running low on water and food and nine of whom took ill a few days ago.

Mrs Goyal says her husband and crew members have been in touch with her from the ship's bridge, presumably using a satellite phone.

On Wednesday, Mrs Goyal met China's Charge d'affaires in New Delhi and urged the Chinese authorities to help secure release of the Hong Kong-registered tanker and its 22 crew members.

The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricant oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.' On Monday, Mrs Goyal met a Japanese Embassy official in New Delhi in an effort to build up pressure on the ship's Japanese owners to secure a quick end to the crisis.

Mrs Goyal and other members of the group have been meeting Indian authorities-- ministers, senior bureaucrats, politicians-- to bring home the urgency of securing the sailors' release.

Experts say much of the initiative in the matter rests with authorities in Hong Kong, where the ship is registered, or Japan, where the owners belong.

UNI MJ MIR AS2215 .5 million-- for letting the ship sail.

Besides 18 Indians, the ship's 22 crew members include a Russian, a Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.

Major General (Retd) Khanduri is scheduled to visit New Delhi and meet Prime Minister Singh on Monday. Mrs Goyal this week conveyed a petition from Mumbai-based seamen's unions to Prime Minister Singh through Nautical Adviser M M Saggi.

There has been no word from the ship on the condition of hostages who were reported to be running low on water and food and nine of whom took ill a few days ago.

Mrs Goyal says her husband and crew members have been in touch with her from the ship's bridge, presumably using a satellite phone.

On Wednesday, Mrs Goyal met China's Charge d'affaires in New Delhi and urged the Chinese authorities to help secure release of the Hong Kong-registered tanker and its 22 crew members.

The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricant oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.' On Monday, Mrs Goyal met a Japanese Embassy official in New Delhi in an effort to build up pressure on the ship's Japanese owners to secure a quick end to the crisis.

Mrs Goyal and other members of the group have been meeting Indian authorities-- ministers, senior bureaucrats, politicians-- to bring home the urgency of securing the sailors' release.

Experts say much of the initiative in the matter rests with authorities in Hong Kong, where the ship is registered, or Japan, where the owners belong.

UNI MJ MIR AS2215

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