- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

SAN’A, Yemen — Negotiations with Yemeni tribesmen who kidnapped a former German diplomat and his family are going well, officials said yesterday, expressing hope they soon would be released.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he expected the family to be freed by the New Year.

“As always, it takes patience, time and nerve. But I am sure that we will come to a conclusion before the end of the year,” said Mr. Steinmeier, who spoke with Yemeni officials repeatedly by telephone yesterday.

Nasser Ba’oum, the deputy governor of the eastern Shabwa province, where the family was abducted Wednesday, said earlier he expected the hostages to be released within hours. “The negotiations are progressing well,” he said.

Armed tribesmen kidnapped former Deputy Foreign Minister Juergen Chrobog, his wife and three children as they toured the Yemeni mountains in a two-car convoy. The gunmen surrounded their vehicles, forced them into the kidnappers’ cars and sped off, government officials in Shabwa said.

Mr. Chrobog, 65, was deputy foreign minister in then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s government, which left office in November, and served as Germany’s ambassador to the United States from 1991 to 1994.

The kidnappers are demanding the release of five members of their tribe who are on trial for purportedly killing two members of a rival tribe.

The tour operator hired by the Chrobog family said it had contacted the hostages through the mobile phone of their tour guide, who was seized with them.

“We spoke with the family … and they are well,” Mohammed Abdulkarim Abu Taleb told Germany’s ARD television.

Interior Ministry officials and elders from other tribes in the area were involved in negotiations.

Awadh bin el-Wazeer, the leading tribal mediator, said the kidnappers had proposed several options, including releasing the five on trial and settling the matter according to tribal traditions.

Tribesmen frequently kidnap tourists in an attempt to force concessions from the government of Yemen, a poor nation on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula where state control in outlying areas is shaky.

Hostages are usually released unharmed, though several were killed in 2000 when security forces carried out a botched raid to free them.

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