Libya has agreed to raise an extra 12 million dollars ransom for the release of westerners among 28 hostages held by Muslim extremists in the southern Philippines, an official in President Joseph Estrada's office was reported as saying Tuesday.
The money is believed to be on top of 25 million dollars Libya had pledged in development aid to Jolo Island, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf gunmen where the hostages are being held.
A Libyan foundation mediating the release of the hostages -- 12 westerners and 16 Filipinos -- has begrudgingly agreed to raise an extra 12 million dollars in exchange for the Caucasians' freedom, a senior presidential palace official told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The Kadhafi Charity Organization run by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son Seif had asked for "three days" to come up with the ransom after the Abu Sayyaf reneged on an agreement to free the hostages on Saturday.
The Inquirer newspaper said the organization was buying time to raise the extra money.
Although the guerrillas said they backed off on Saturday because they feared a military attack, government sources have said the main reason was an argument over ransom payments between the Abu Sayyaf and Rajab Azzarouq, an official of the Libyan foundation and Tripoli's pointman in the hostage talks.
The Philippine government's chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado and Estrada met on Sunday to consider ways to revive negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf, with a fresh formula relayed to Libya via Azzarouq.
There was no immediate response from Libya, Aventajado said on Monday.
The Abu Sayyaf reportedly insisted on 18 million dollars -- a million for each of the remaining nine Westerners taken from Sipadan resort in April, and three million dollars each for three French journalists captured later, government sources had said Monday.
"The Libyan mediators brought only about four million dollars with them, leading (Abu Sayyaf leaders) Galib Andang and Mujib Susukan to accuse Azzarouq of not fulfilling his promise," one source said. "It was not clear what the promise was." - MANILA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )