Canada says has received no ransom demand for envoy

Wed Jan 7, 2009 2:22pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has not received a ransom demand for a special U.N. envoy who was abducted in the impoverished west African nation of Niger last month, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said on Wednesday.

Robert Fowler, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, and his aide Louis Guay were kidnapped northeast of Niger's capital of Niamey on Dec 14. Fowler is the U.N.'s special envoy to Niger, where government forces are battling Tuareg rebels.

"This is a major file that concerns us a great deal ... We haven't had any ransom demands," Cannon told reporters, saying Canadian officials were on the ground in Niger.

A rebel Tuareg splinter faction initially claimed on its website that it carried out the abduction, but later retracted.

The main Tuareg rebel group denied any role in the kidnapping and suggested it may have been carried out by security agencies with the aim of discrediting the rebels.

Cannon said he has had two conversations with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the abduction. Fowler, 64, took up his post as special envoy in July 2008.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)