Indonesian hostages released in Iraq

Two Indonesian women taken hostage in Iraq have been released.

State television from the United Arab Emirates is reporting that two Indonesian women held hostage in Iraq have been released.

The Abu Dhabi station broadcast pictures of the women. Istiqomah binti Misnad and Novitasari binti Sugito, both from East Java, appeared in shock after their three-day ordeal but otherwise appeared to be in good health.

The two women were in Iraq to work as maids for two Lebanese nationals contracted by an Iraqi electronics company. They said they don't know what happened to the two Lebanese and six Iraqis who were kidnapped at the same time.

The kidnappers offered to release the women if Jakarta set free Abu Bakar Bashir, detained on suspicion of terrorist links. Indonesian authorities did not free Bashir.

The same kidnappers are believed to be holding two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said after meeting with President Jacques Chirac that the government was doing everything it could to win the journalists' release.

"Under the authority of the prime minister we have worked to exchange all the information we have, and to ensure its trustworthiness. We'll continue to work until they are released with discretion, perseverance, responsibility, but also with patience," he said.

Chesnot, 37, and Malbrunot, 41, were taken hostage in late August near Najaf, along with their Syrian driver.

The hostage-takers are demanding that France revoke a new law banning overt religious symbols, including Islamic head scarves, from state schools.

With files from Australian Broadcasting Corporation