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Rogge appeals for release of Olympic officials

IOC president Jacques Rogge again appealed for the release of Iraqi Olympic officials who were kidnapped in July.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge again appealed for the release of Iraqi Olympic officials who were kidnapped in July.

Rogge, speaking at the Olympic Council of Asia meeting Saturday in Doha, Qatar, urged the captors to release Iraq Olympic Committee chairman Ahmed al-Hijiya and 30 other people who were taken hostage at gunpoint during a daylight raid on a sports conference in Baghdad.

"The Iraqi NOC president and his colleagues were kidnapped four months ago and they're all still missing. Please let them free," Rogge said. "Let them return home to their families so that they can work for youth and peace in their country."

Gunmen in about a dozen vehicles pulled up outside the meeting of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee in July, entered the conference centre, blindfolded and handcuffed participants and bodyguards, hustled them into the vehicles and sped away.

Those kidnapped included al-Hijiya and the presidents of the taekwondo and boxing federations. The bodies of two bodyguards were later found dumped along a street.

Iraq is one of 45 countries and territories with a delegation at the 15th Asian Games in Doha, the first to be staged in an Arab country.

Rogge, who was host of IOC executive board meetings in Kuwait City earlier in the week, attended the Asian Games opening ceremonies on Friday night and the OCA meetings Saturday in downtown Doha, where candidates for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Asian Games gave presentations to members and Beijing 2008 Olympic officials gave an update report.

"Asia is a very diverse continent, but the Asian Games have shown there can be unity in diversity," Rogge told delegates at the meeting. "Asia has shown Asia is continent on the rise.

"This will be the confirmed in Doha and is sure to continue in Beijing."

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