DATE=8/20/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=PHILIPPINES HOSTAGES (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-265659 BYLINE=KONRAD MULLER DATELINE=MANILA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: INTRO: In the southern Philippines, three Malaysians flew home Sunday, after being held for nearly four months by the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group on the island of Jolo. But as Konrad Muller reports from Manila, efforts to free the remaining 28 captives have run into difficulty. TEXT: Uncertainty had surrounded the whereabouts of the three Malaysians after their release was announced Friday night. Security and transport difficulties, it seems, obstructed their departure from the Abu Sayyaf's jungle camp. Sunday morning, however, the three arrived in the town of Jolo, plainly elated, if exhausted. They then flew on to Zamboanga City on the main southern island of Mindanao, before heading home. The three were among 21 mainly foreign captives seized in April from a Malaysian diving resort by the Muslim extremist Philippine rebels. Of the original hostages, seven Europeans and two South Africans now remain in the Abu Sayyaf's custody. They are also joined in captivity in the jungle by three French journalists and fifteen Filipinos, kidnapped since April. Efforts to free these remaining hostages are clearly deadlocked. Libya has spearheaded an initiative to secure their release, but talks broke down Saturday over the Abu Sayyaf's refusal to surrender all the hostages together, as demanded by the Philippines government. The situation now threatens to unravel further. A Libyan charity that was reported to be offering millions of dollars in development funds as part of a deal, has warned it would abandon negotiations if there were no positive developments in the next 48 hours. It seems the source of the impasse is the anxiety of Abu Sayyaf leaders over possible military strikes, once all of the captives are released. The Philippine government's chief negotiator, Roberto Aventajado, has said Libya is free to withdraw from the negotiating process, if it so chooses. Yet he also signalled he would be discussing the deadlock with the Philippine President, Joseph Estrada, Monday. (Signed) NEB/KM/PLM 20-Aug-2000 06:53 AM EDT (20-Aug-2000 1053 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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