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Iraq releases 14 Americans

Fourteen American men flew from Baghdad to Amman Tuesday night and 33 Britons flew to London in a continuing trickle of hostage releases ordered by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. As the Americans boarded an Iraqi Airways jet in Baghdad for their flight to freedom, the Iraqi National Assembly voted to release all of the more than 300 Frenchmen who also have been held in Hussein's human-shield defense against a U.S. bombing attack.

Hussein suggested on Monday that Frenchmen should be released in recognition of France's longstanding friendship with Iraq. The gesture seemed designed to draw Paris away from the alliance of Western and Arab nations ranged against Iraq since its Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

France welcomed the prospect of the French hostages' release but emphasized all foreigners should be freed and that the anti-Iraq alliance could not be split through such discriminatory treatment.

Small groups of Italian, Spanish, German, British and Finnish nationals have been released over the last two weeks and Swedish and Greek envoys are seeking similar releases for their citizens.

In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman said six of the 14 released Americans were on the list of 69 people in urgent need of medical care, and that two had critically ill relatives in the United States.

She said the remaining six were college-age students _ three summer interns at the Baghdad embassy and three dependents of diplomats.

Several hundred U.S. citizens are believed still hiding in Kuwait to avoid capture by Iraqi occupation troops. Many of their wives and children already have left in special flights organized by the U.S. and other Western governments last month.

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