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Diplomats step up rescue efforts

Published: 6:18AM Thursday August 17, 2006 Source: RNZ/Reuters/One News

Prime Minister Helen Clark says she is confident no stone is being left unturned by the Palestinian Authority to find a New Zealander kidnapped in Gaza City three days ago.

Clark says she spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday night, and he told her the Hamas-led authority is doing everything it can to find Olaf Wiig.

The Fox News cameraman and an American reporter were on assignment for the television network when they were taken hostage by armed men who Clark says are still unidentified.

A Gaza-based journalist says the Palestinian Authority has what it calls "initial information" which may help lead to the journalists.
 
"We have initial information that could start the chase for the kidnappers," Palestinian government spokesperson Khaled Abu Hilal says.

Clark says Abbas has given her a strong message of support.

She says he has instructed his security officials to work on the case with great urgency. 

The New Zealand ambassador to Israel and a colleague from Cairo spent Wednesday meeting Palestinian officials and politicians. 

"They assure us that they have put out all stops on this and I think that we have to accept it is a day-to-day situation and we are just going to have to keep in there," says ambassador Jan Henderson.

She says there has been plenty of speculation about who is involved, but no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

While the ambassador was with Abbas, Clark was making her presence felt by phone.

"You can't be certain of the outcome, what you can be certain of is everything that can be done, is being done," she says.

Palestinian officials have also met with Wiig's wife, journalist Anita McNaught, and Fox representatives to discuss the men's capture. 

Flanked by heavily armed guards in Gaza, she is searching one of the world's most densely populated pieces of land fo her husband.

"It is difficult dealing with no news - dealing with no information on how he is," she says.

She has also made public appeals for her husband's release.

Wiig's father, Reverend Roger Wiig, says Fox officials have been in touch with family members to tell them they are doing all they can to secure an early  release. He says Fox did not name the group or individuals thought to have his son. 

McNaught, on Wednesday called the kidnapping pointless.

"This for me is completely pointless, worse than pointless, it is a completely destructive act," she said.
   
"I cannot see that it helps anyone, taking two professionals like this and kidnapping them," McNaught said. "They are exactly the sort of people the people of Palestine need, the people of Gaza need to tell their story to the world. By taking them hostage they have taken that from the Palestinian people."
   
The kidnapping is the first involving foreigners in Gaza since the Hamas-led government was sworn in in March.
   
Several previous kidnappings were resolved bloodlessly.  Kidnappers had often been locked in disputes with the Palestinian Authority over jobs or the release of jailed relatives from prisons.

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