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Canada tones down optimism on Iraq hostages

Written by: Staff

OTTAWA, Feb 22 (Reuters) Canada's Foreign Minister Peter MacKay has toned down his earlier upbeat remarks about the fate of four peace activists being held hostage in Iraq, saying Ottawa had not received any new information about them.

MacKay had told the Canadian press on Monday that he was ''very optimistic'' about the four and that ''the most recent information leads us to believe they have, on a number of occasions, been moved from one location to another.'' Yesterday, MacKay was more guarded, saying Ottawa had had no word of the four since a video dated January 21 was shown on Al Jazeera television on January 28.

''That information is unfortunately the last information that we have,'' he told reporters. ''Sadly, we do not have any more recent information but that is what leads us to remain optimistic about their eventual release.'' The four men -- two Canadians, one Briton and one American -- were seized in Baghdad on November 26 by the previously unknown Swords of Truth group.

Asked how he knew the hostages were being moved around, MacKay replied: ''The risk is of course to comment extensively on information that is unreliable and so for security reasons we can't comment any further.'' Muslim scholars and activists from around the world, including leaders of the militant Hamas and Hizbollah groups, have appealed for the release of the aid workers.


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