American captives get extra appeal-time

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq ÄTwo Americans jailed for illegally entering Iraq have been given up to one month to appeal their eight-year prison sentences, instead of the usual two weeks, sources reported Sunday.

But there was no indication of an early release and Secretary of State Warren Christopher said that Washington believes the two Americans will only be freed when Saddam Hussein personally approves it.

Christopher stressed on the CBS-TV's ''Face The Nation'' that Saddam ''isn't going to get any concessions from the United States for releasing them, but it would be a good thing for the international reputation of Iraq ... It would be an adverse thing if he continues to hold them.''

U.S. officials say David Daliberti, 41, of Jacksonville, Fla., and William Barloon, 39, of New Hampton, Iowa, strayed across Iraq's border with Kuwait on March 13 while on their way to visit friends at a U.N. border post. They were tried and sentenced March 25.

Some Iraqi officials have made vaguely hopeful remarks about the Americans, while government-run newspapers have taken tougher

lines, making it difficult to discern what the official line is.

Hassab al-Oubaidi of parliament's foreign relations department suggested Saturday that the pair could be released ''in the coming few days.'' He did not elaborate.

The Defense Ministry's newspaper, Al-Qadissiyah, said Sunday the American prisoners are no different from Mexicans caught trying to enter the United States illegally.

Iraqi law experts and officials close to the case said the doubling of the appeal period was a positive sign.

Authorities extended it after Daliberti told them his passport back in Kuwait contained a valid Iraqi visa, the officials said on condition of anonymity. They did not say why Daliberti, who worked in Kuwait for a U.S. defense contractor, had an Iraqi visa.

Iraq's foreign minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, said last week he did not believe the two Americans entered Iraq accidentally, but rather were part of a U.S. effort to thwart Baghdad's drive to have U.N. trade sanctions, which have devastated Iraq's economy and caused worsening hardship for most of its 18 million people, lifted.

The United States and Britain have blocked all efforts to soften or lift the oil embargo, claiming Iraq is hiding biological weapons.

Christopher said he was ''completely satisfied that it was an innocent mistake'' when the two Americans crossed into Iraq.

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