British FM Hopes Hijack Jet Passengers to Return Sunday
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Sunday he was "relieved" that the hijacking of a Saudi jet to Baghdad was over and hoped that freed British passengers would return to London on Sunday.
But Cook refused to thank Iraqi authorities, saying they had only fulfilled their international obligations in resolving the crisis.
"I would not thank any government for carrying out its clear international obligation to stop a terrorist hijack," he said simply.
The Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 777 from Jeddah to London was hijacked on Saturday, with 104 passengers onboard, including 40 Britons.
The hijackers, presented by Iraqi authorities as two Saudis, surrendered without a fight after the plane landed in Baghdad late Saturday, leaving all aboard to walk free and unharmed.
They sought political asylum from Iraqi authorities.
"I am pleased that all the passengers in the hijacked plane have been released, and I am glad the hijack was brought to a conclusion swiftly and peacefully," he added.
The British foreign secretary said he had been in contact with Baghdad through the Russians throughout the ordeal.
"We understand that that all the passengers are now free to go," he announced.
The priority, he said, remained to get the 40 British passengers home. "I hope that will be today," he added, although no definite decision had yet been made.
In London, a Saudi Arabian Airlines spokesman had said late Saturday that passengers were expected at London's Heathrow airport at 5:40 pm (1640 GMT) on Sunday.
However, the passengers and crew were still in Baghdad Sunday afternoon, with no word as to when they would leave.
"We are waiting to leave Iraq, but we don't know if we'll go to London or Saudi Arabia," Briton Aiyub Sidat told AFP.
But Cook said he believed the ordeal would soon be over, saying: "I have felt deeply for the relatives of all those detained over the last day and night and they must have been through an enormously worrying time which I hope is now coming to an end.” – LONDON (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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