4 UN Staff Set Free In Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia -- Kidnappers on Tuesday released four UN staff abducted last week while monitoring the border between Georgia and the separatist province of Abkhazia, a senior Georgian official said.

Unidentified gunmen abducted three UN military observers, two Germans and a Dane, with their Georgian interpreter Thursday in the remote Kodor Gorge on the border with Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia in 1993.

"We can confirm that the hostages have been released," said Bessarion Kvitsiani, deputy envoy of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in the gorge.

"The ransom has not been paid," he said, adding that no criminal charges would be brought against the kidnappers.

The abductors on Sunday demanded $3 million to release their hostages.

Kvitsiani did not explain how the government had secured the captives' release.

Several other UN observers have been abducted in the gorge and then freed within a few days -- unconditionally, according to official accounts.

The United Nations has said it would pay no ransom.

Georgian government officials went by car to a place where they had agreed to pick up the hostages and were expected to return soon, Kvitsiani said.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck said in Berlin that three UN observers and their interpreter were in good condition.

The observers were part of a 100-member UN team monitoring the border since 1993, when Abkhaz separatists drove out Georgian troops in a conflict that killed about 10,000 people.

The UN observer mission in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, has named the hostages as Klaus Ott and Herbert Bauer from Germany, Henrik Soerensen from Denmark and Georgian interpreter Lasha Chikashua.

In the last such incident, Polish and Greek observers were held for a few days in December 2000. According to officials, they too were released without conditions.