This is Steve Emberwith the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.
The United States has made changes in its policy about Americanhostages. State Department official Richard Boucher announced thechanges Wednesday.
Mister Boucher said the government will use every resource togain the safe return of American citizens who are held hostage.However, he said the United States will continue its policy of notpaying kidnappers or meeting any of their demands. For example, theUnited States will not release prisoners in exchange for the freedomof American hostages.
The new policy was announced theday before the State Department confirmed that an American reporterhad been killed by his kidnappers in Pakistan. Daniel Pearl was aWall Street Journal reporter. He was kidnapped last month inKarachi. Two American religious workers continue to be held hostagein the Philippines by the Abu Sayef group.
The new policy about American hostages is not very different fromthe one that has been in place the last seven years. But, it doesmake clear that the United States will take the kidnapping ofprivate citizens just as seriously as that of government officials.
The United States government now will examine every overseaskidnapping of an American for possible action. This expands theearlier policy of considering only the cases in which Americanofficials are held.
Mister Boucher warned terrorist groups, criminal organizationsand foreign governments against kidnapping Americans. He said thekidnappers will not gain anything by taking hostages.
Mister Boucher said there were several ways the United States mayanswer kidnappings in foreign countries. The new policy permits theuse of force to try to gain the release of hostages. Yet, MisterBoucher said he did not want to suggest that military action is inany way a first choice or a better choice. He said the main promisethe government is making is to look at every kidnapping case to seewhat can be done.
The other major change in hostage policy concerns the actions ofprivate individuals or businesses. The United States continues tostrongly advise that people not pay kidnappers or meet their otherdemands. Yet, the new policy eases restrictions on American ForeignService agencies in working on such kidnapping cases. In the past,the Foreign Service could offer assistance only to help privateindividuals and organizations communicate with foreign governments.
The National Security Council began re-examining the hostagepolicy toward the end of former President Clinton's administration.The White House, the Justice Department and the Central IntelligenceAgency also were involved in developing the new policy.
This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written byCaty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.