Romanian Journalists Kidnapped

Three Romanian journalists have been kidnapped in Baghdad, a television station employing two of journalists said Tuesday.

The journalists, who went missing Monday, are reporter Marie Jeanne Ion and cameraman Sorin Dumitru Miscoci from Bucharest-based television station Prima TV (search) and daily Romania Libera reporter Ovidiu Ohanesian.

They went missing the Iraqi capital shortly after an interview with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search), the newspaper's director Petre Mihai Bacanu told The Associated Press.

Bacanu said Romanian officials in Baghdad told him the three were abducted from their hotel late Monday. He said no group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and no ransom had been demanded.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu (search) said he was "worried" about the situation and announced he had set up a crisis center in the government to coordinate attempts to free the journalists.

Prima TV said in a statement that Ion made a phone call to the newsroom, speaking a mixture of Romanian, Arabic and English, and telling colleagues that they were being kidnapped.

"Don't kill us, we are from a poor country and we have no money," the statement quoted Ion as saying.

She later sent a text message to the station, saying "Help, this is not a joke, we've been kidnapped."

Dan Dumitru, news director at Prima TV said the two journalists were in Iraq for five days to interview Allawi and interim President Ghazi al-Yawer.

He said that Ion called during an editorial meeting on Monday and he put the phone on speaker.

"Marie-Jeanne was begging in English and in Arabic 'to be left alone'," he said. "Their translator said that they were from Romania, a poor country and don't have money to pay a ransom."

"All I know they have been taken by force and we can't reach them any more," Dumitru told private television station Realitatea TV.

Bacanu said that Ohanesian, 37, "had just had an interview with the prime minister and he told me he wanted to do some features, but I told him not to do that and to come back."

Romania's President Traian Basescu (search), who was in Iraq and Afghanistan for two days visiting Romanian troops, said upon returning to Bucharest on Tuesday that his government was doing all it could to find the journalists. Basescu said Romania had sought the help of U.S.-led coalition authorities in Iraq.

Romania has about 800 troops in Iraq and about 500 in Afghanistan.