Palestinian forces 'know where Alan Johnston is'

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said his country's security forces knew the whereabouts of the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

But Abbas said today that troops were reluctant to use force to free Johnston, for fear harm might come to the 44-year-old reporter.

A Fatah-affiliated website has quoted Abbas as saying: "We want to protect his life and finish this safely."

Here in the UK, prime minister Tony Blair said today the Government was doing everything it could to facilitate Johnston's release.

In Prime Minister's Questions this morning, he said there was "no conceivable reason" for the reporter to be kept.

"He was a journalist doing his job out there," Blair said. "There have also been many calls from Palestinian leaders and Palestinian journalists for his release. We continue to do everything we can to facilitate that."

In Ireland, religious leaders have come together to make a plea for the safe release of Johnston.

In an unprecedented move, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and the
Chairman of the Irish Council of Imams came together to call for the
freeing of the correspondent.

It was the first occasion on which the leader of the largest Muslim
community in Ireland and the Catholic Primate of Ireland have publicly
cooperated in this manner.

Johnston was seized outside his Gaza City apartment on 12 March. Tomorrow, on World Press Freedom Day, an image of the reporter will be projected onto the side of the BBC's Television Centre in west London to remind people of his plight.

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