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KBR denies withholding news on Iraq hostages
Monday April 26, 2004 2:20 pm ET

HOUSTON, April 26 (Reuters) - Texas company Halliburton, denying a published report it was withholding information from relatives of four workers kidnapped in Iraq, said on Monday it was keeping in touch with the missing employees' families.

The company said was in daily contact with relatives of the missing workers through its Employee Assistance Program, which offers counseling and emotional support.

"We are working with the authorities and doing everything we can to assist the families as well as our employees who must summon all of their patience and hopefulness in this difficult period," Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said in an e-mail to Reuters.

Relatives of the kidnapped KBR workers have complained they were being kept in the dark about the situation in Iraq.

"We know absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing," Felicia Carter, sister of missing KBR truck driver Timothy Bell, told the Houston Chronicle.

"We'd love to have information, but they haven't provided us with anything. We ask them on a daily basis," she said.

The head of Halliburton's KBR unit denied withholding information and said the company had daily contact with the families, the Chronicle reported.

Randy Harl, president of KBR, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, told the newspaper he did not know whether the hostage takers have issued demands for the release of the company's employees.

"You hear the same thing we do. The military is handling that," Harl told the newspaper.

"For security reasons, they aren't saying much. We haven't heard anything in regard to those negotiations," he said.

Halliburton's KBR is the largest contractor in Iraq, holding contracts that could eventually be worth $19 billion for logistics services supporting the U.S. military as well as rebuilding the country's oil infrastructure.

Seven KBR employees went missing in an April 9 attack on a convoy of trucks, and the bodies of three were identified last week after they were found near the site of the ambush.

The deaths brought the number of KBR workers killed in Iraq and Kuwait in the past year to 33.

KBR, which has about 24,000 workers and subcontractors in Iraq, has said it suspended some transportation convoys because of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, and that military protection of the trucks has been been increased.

About 50 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq in recent weeks. Most have been released unharmed, including an Israeli Arab employee of North Carolina-based Research Triangle International set free last week.