Wien, 28. December 2006 Press release

Foreign Minister on the kidnapping of an Austrian citizen in Iraq

28.12.2006

Every effort is being made to find missing Austrian

Vienna, 28 December 2006 - "Although rumour has it that a video exists, there is - thus far - no verifiable information on the fate of Bert Nussbaumer, who was abducted in Iraq," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, commenting on yesterday’s information as to a video allegedly showing the Austrian citizen together with four Americans who were kidnapped at the same time. The Austrian authorities are not in possession of this video. Plassnik confirmed, however, that an audio recording had been made available by the Crescent Security Group, which is allegedly based on this video. "The recording is currently subject to expert scrutiny. So far we have not received any verification as to whether or not it is authentic, or when the recording was made," said Plassnik.

"At any rate, the emergence of the recording is a further incentive for us to continue our intensive efforts for the release of the Austrian. Together with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence we are undertaking every effort to locate the kidnapped Austrian’s whereabout," emphasised Plassnik. The crisis team of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which includes representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence, is holding regular meetings.

Against the background of a particularly challenging situation and difficult security conditions in Iraq, information is also obscure, which makes work difficult. The com-petent ministries are therefore trying to maintain good contacts with Iraq’s multi-layered social network to obtain verifiable information. Austrian authorities have still not been contacted by the kidnappers, and nor are any demands known that may have been put forward by the kidnappers.

Immediately after the abduction became known, all contacts available in Iraq were activated to obtain a clear picture as to the fate of the Austrian citizen. In their efforts, the competent Austrian authorities cooperate closely with Iraqi authorities and the partners represented in Baghdad and Basra, amongst others those of the European Union. The Austrian embassies in Amman and Kuwait have also been asked to contribute to these efforts. Embassy staffs have been increased as required.

The network of contacts has also been expanded to ensure an intensive exchange of information between the Austrian authorities and non-governmental organisations, including the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as churchly institutions, hospitals and doctors.

At the political level, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik turned to the Iraqi authorities with an urgent request to use every possible influence for the swift release and safe return of the kidnapped Austrian. The Foreign Minister asked her Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari as well as President Dschalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to do everything possible to bring this kidnapping to a happy end as quickly as possible.

For a long time Austria’s Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning for Iraq, urging all citizens on its homepage www.aussenministerium.at to refrain from travelling to that country.

Contact:
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213
abti3(at)bmaa.gv.at