Sun Apr 11, 9:14 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - A wave of kidnappings of foreign civilians in Iraq (news - web sites) is a "disturbing development" but will not deter Britain from staying to help rebuild the country, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said Sunday.
"We have got to work towards the safety and security of those people," he told Sky News.
"We want to ensure they are free. At the same time we will not be intimidated by the extremists, by the fanatics, by the men of violence. It is important that we go on working to rebuild Iraq."
He described the insurgents as supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), foreigners and Al-Qaeda sympathizers.
"We can't afford to allow these extremists, these fanatics to continue to kill, to capture innocent people who are working for the reconstruction of Iraq. We can't simply hand over the country to the very people who are trying to undermine all that Iraqis themselves want."
Hoon said he saw "no reason at this stage" to delay the handover of power in Iraq from a planned date of June 30, despite the bloody upsurge in violence in the country over the past week.
Asked if there was an end in sight for British troops who make up the second largest contingent in Iraq after US forces, he said: "No there isn't."
"We obviously will be there for as long as it is necessary to achieve the job."
Three Japanese hostages were still being held in Iraq Sunday despite reports of their expected release.
The Japanese were among several foreigners taken hostage in Iraq.
Another group threatened to kill a presumed US national identified as Thomas Hamill if the siege of Fallujah was not lifted.