British Hostage Begs for Help on Tape

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," Sept. 29, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, disturbing new video of a British hostage in Iraq has emerged on Al Jazeera TV. Sixty-two-year-old Kenneth Bigley, caged and chained around his neck, is heard begging prime minister — British prime minister Tony Blair for help. Is there a chance he could be released?

Fox News foreign affairs analyst and former ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg joins us from New York. Ambassador, first of all, since you can read Arabic for us, tell us what the Arabic press is saying about this British man tonight.

MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: It's interesting, Greta, how the terrorists seem to have separated this poor, hapless British civilian from the two Americans that were originally beheaded by the same organization that's holding him, Abu Musab al Zarqawi's Tawad and Jihad group. And what the Arab press is saying is that there have been intense negotiations, Greta, led by a delegation of senior Islamic clerics from Britain that have traveled to Baghdad to make direct, if not indirect, contact with these terrorists in order to try to negotiate at least a stay of execution.

And what we see here now, Greta, is that apparently the — there is a stay of execution, but the intense effort to humiliate the British government, as well as to scare the daylights out of the hostage and his family, is part of this intense negotiation, apparently, that I surmise is going on.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, ambassador, it's somewhat unusual. Earlier today, Prime Minister Blair gave a speech in which he said there was no way to even reach the captors, yet you're telling me that senior — that British clerics have actually gone over there. Is there a disconnect between the British clerics and the British government?

GINSBERG: Clearly, these clerics have been dispatched at the behooveness of the family itself. The family reached out to a group of Islamic clerics in London and begged them — literally begged them — to travel, risking their lives, to Baghdad in order to attempt to make contact with Abu Musab al Zarqawi's terrorist group in order to seek some sort of humanitarian support from other clerics inside Iraq to put pressure on Abu Musab al Zarqawi's group to release this hostage.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the demands are that the Americans, or the British, whoever is holding — release Iraqi women in prison. And that, apparently, is nonnegotiable. Is ransom a possibility?

GINSBERG: Ransom has never, ever been taken off the plate by families, as well as by private companies, who have lost so many people to hostage taking in Iraq. Indeed, the two young Italian non-governmental organization humanitarian workers who were released earlier today were perhaps released — I don't know this for a fact, but perhaps released because of a very complicated ransom negotiation that had taken place almost on behalf of the Italian government.

These two women, Greta, received enormous humanitarian support from their fellow countrymen. And yet here in the United States, while we all were obviously upset over the taking of the hostages of those two American citizens recently who were beheaded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the outcry in this country nowhere matched the outcry, as well as the pressure inside the Italian government.

VAN SUSTEREN: And we only have 30 seconds left, Ambassador. But the British was taken with Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Hensley, both the Americans who have been beheaded. Why has he been spared so far? Why was he sort of separated from the two Americans, when he was taken with them?

GINSBERG: Because I believe that the hostage takers are actually trying to put counterpart pressure on the part of the clerics to perhaps return to Britain, demanding that the British government indeed withdraw its troops from Iraq. Now, Tony Blair has made it abundantly clear he will not negotiate, but there is obviously hope that the same pressure that was brought to bear among the population in Italy would also be the same type of pressure that would be brought on an increasingly unpopular prime minister in England who has a war on his hands that doesn't have the support of the British people.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Ambassador Ginsberg. Thank you very much. Let's hope that this British man is spared.

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