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Red Cross to Meet Rebel Hostage-Takers

February 14, 1996

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ The leader of rebels holding 12 hostages in the New Guinea jungle has agreed to talks with Red Cross mediators on ending the 5-week standoff.

The hostages, who include four Britons and two Dutch citizens, were abducted Jan. 8 by rebels who want independence for Irian Jaya, the Indonesian portion of New Guinea.

An attempt by religious missionaries to negotiate their release last month ended in failure.

Henri Fournier, head of the Red Cross office in Jakarta, is to fly to the region Thursday to negotiate with rebel leader Kelly Kwalik, Red Cross spokeswoman Sri Wahyu Endah said today.

``We have received a message from the leader of the kidnappers to meet them at a certain place and time. We cannot give you details because this is very sensitive,″ she said.

Military officials say the rebels can’t be far from the tiny village of Mapenduma, about 2,300 miles northeast of Jakarta.

The hostages were taken from the village while doing a research project for the World Wildlife Fund.

In letters to their families, the hostages have said they generally were in good condition, Endah said. The letters were carried out of the jungle by members of the Amungme tribes, to which Kwalik belongs, she said.

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