Britain and Iraq condemned the “parading” of a British hostage Wednesday and promised to work for an early release after talks between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Iraqi counterpart.
Brown spoke to Nouri al-Maliki following a Tuesday evening broadcast by Al-Arabiya TV of a video of one of five British hostages held since being kidnapped in Baghdad May 29.
The bearded man, who seemed to be in good health, said on the tape, “My name is Peter Moore, I have been held here for nearly eight months now.”
He asked Brown to free nine Iraqis in exchange for their release.
“The prime minister has been in close contact with Prime Minister Maliki on this issue and discussed it again with him over the phone this morning," a Downing Street spokesman said.
“Both leaders deplored the taking and public parading of hostages and agreed to continue their close cooperation to secure their early release.”
The five, who have not been officially named, were seized by about 40 gunmen wearing police uniforms at the Iraqi Finance Ministry.
At the time, Iraqi officials blamed the Mahdi Army, the militia controlled by the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It was thought to be a retaliatory attack for the killing by British forces of the militia’s commander in the southern city of Basra a week earlier.
But Al-Sadr’s followers have denied responsibility, and suspicion has fallen on Mahdi Army splinter groups, which the U.S. believes are controlled by Iran.
Four of the hostages were working for Canadian firm GardaWorld as security guards. They are believed to have been the bodyguards of the fifth man, a computer consultant employed by BearingPoint, an American management consulting company.
In a previous video, broadcast by the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya on Dec. 4, the kidnappers threatened to kill the men unless British troops were pulled out of Iraq within 10 days.
“All I want is to leave this place," the hostage says in the video. "I tell Gordon Brown the matter is simple: release their prisoners so we can go."