Bulgaria confirms two hostages in Iraq are alive


Bulgaria confirmed today  that two Bulgarian truck drivers taken hostage in Iraq were still alive, as hours passed after a Friday execution deadline.

"Now I can confirm the information, which has been received three hours ago that our compatriots are alive," foreign minister Mr Solomon Passy told a press briefing. He did not elaborate.

The abductors said they would kill the two Bulgarians late on Friday unless US-led forces freed prisoners in Iraq, propelling the Balkan country into a flurry of diplomatic activity to rescue the men.

He said Bulgarian diplomats were sent to Iraq on Saturday to help coordinate efforts to free the hostages - Mr Georgi Lazov (30), and Mr Ivailo Kepov (32).

Bulgarian president Mr Georgi Parvanov spoke with US president Mr George Bush, who thanked him for committing troops to Iraq and said Washington would do everything to help.