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CNN Today

Afghan Plane Hijacking: Negotiations Reach 'Critical Stage'

Aired February 7, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Police in Britain say negotiations with the hijackers of an Afghan airliner have reached, what they call, "a very critical stage." It's still unclear what, besides provisions, the hijackers want, but the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan say they're not negotiating with anybody. The ordeal now is more than 36 hours old.

And we get the latest from CNN Chris Burns, who's at Stansted Airport outside London.

Chris, what's the story?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, we're coming up on the, almost on the third day of this hijacking ordeal, and there had been talks continuing. Officials say that the talks are generally calm and businesslike, and they said the talks must continue.

An indication that the talks are continuing, there has been some movement, in the sense that there have been some more releases this afternoon of eight people: three men, three women, and two infants. And there's also been the delivery of food and supplies, medical supplies. And the officials have agreed to clean out the toilets of the plane. So there has been some movement and exchange there.

So an indication that there is progress, although it is very slow, and it looks like it's going to be a very long haul, probably again, through the night again. So, it's up to -- we're coming up to about 14 hours since the plane arrived here in London and it is continuing.

There has been a press conference in the last hour, where officials were talking about the morale on the plane, and here's what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BROUGHTON, ASST. CHIEF CONSTABLE, ESSEX POLICE: As far as we know, the air conditioning and lighting is still working. We did, of course, deliver a generator there this morning. Morale must be pretty low, I would think, they've been on the ground now, here, for some considerable length of time. Although, we're not getting anything to suggest that that's causing a problem.

We are seeking to enhance and improve the welfare and the comfort of the people on board in every way that we can, in the hope that working together we can achieve a successful resolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNS: Officials are keeping the cards very close to their chest. They're not saying anything about the talks aside from the simple fact that they are continuing. They're saying that there are no political demands at this point, contrary to reports earlier that the hijackers had been demanding the release of an opponent of the Taliban regime.

So at this point, we're not quite sure what on-range exchange will be. So it looks like we're in for a long haul, Lou.

WATERS: All right, Chris Burns at Stansted outside London. We'll keep track of the story.

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