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Relief joy at UN refugee agency over release of colleague abducted in

“It is a very happy day,” António Guterres told hundreds of staff gathered in the Geneva headquarters of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday. “We were all ecstatic the day before yesterday when the news came and when finally – I must say, it was one of the best days of my life – I could speak to him late Saturday.”Mr. Solecki, the agency’s head of office in Balochistan’s provincial capital Quetta, was abducted in an attack on 2 February that also left another colleague, Syed Hashim, dead. Following a message from his abductors, the Baloch Liberation United Front, the 49-year-old Solecki was located on Saturday night in Khadkhutcha, some 50 kilometres south of Quetta. He was flown out of Pakistan on Sunday and is now undergoing medical examination before flying to the United States to see his family.Mr. Guterres said his Saturday night phone call with Mr. Solecki convinced him that he had endured his ordeal “with lots of courage and determination and that we can all be very proud of him. And I think the same can be said about his family.“I hope John will be able to join us soon, and it will be a great moment for all of us,” he added.At the same time, Mr. Guterres highlighted the increasing dangers faced by aid workers and called for respect for the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence.“It is important that in this moment of celebration we do not forget other colleagues in these dramatic circumstances,” he said. Just a couple of days ago, two international staff from the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Aide Medicale Internationale were kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region.“We need to make sure that these kinds of events do not go on multiplying in a way that is representing a major threat to the humanitarian community, narrowing our humanitarian space and a major concern for all of us,” said Mr. Guterres. 7 April 2009The United Nations refugee chief and his staff around the world have welcomed the safe release of colleague John Solecki, who was freed over the weekend in Pakistan after two months in captivity. read more