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Fiji says Syria insurgents to release peacekeepers

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Suva, Sept 10 (AP) - Fiji's military chief said Wednesday that Syrian insurgents have agreed to release 45 United Nations peacekeepers later this week without conditions.
His comments could not be immediately verified by either the U.N. or the Nusra Front.
Fijian Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said Fiji had received word from U.N. headquarters in New York that the Nusra Front would release the men in the coming days without any conditions or demands. He didn't give a precise timetable or specifics of how the handover would take place.
The U.N., however, has a policy of not discussing ongoing captive situations until they are resolved. It earlier said it is engaging with a wide range of parties within Syria, and is making every effort to ensure the safety and security of the peacekeepers.
Jon Greenway, a spokesman for U.N. peacekeeping, said Wednesday it had nothing new to report.
The al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, which typically communicates via its Twitter feeds, did not mention the matter of the Fijian peacekeepers Wednesday on its social networks.
The Nusra Front had earlier listed three demands for releasing the Fijian peacekeepers it took captive Aug. 28.
The group had demanded to be taken off the U.N. terrorist list, wanted humanitarian aid delivered to parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, and wanted compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with U.N. officers.
Tikoitoga said friendships that Fiji had built through peacekeeping over the years had contributed to the positive outcome, and "have not gone unnoticed by the Syrian people."
He said three senior Fijian Army officers, led by Land Force Commander Lt. Col. Jone Kalouniwai, had left for Syria. He said the officers would soon be in place to receive the 45 captured men.
The Fijian peacekeepers had been stationed in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel. There has been heavy fighting in the area since Syrian rebels captured a border crossing near the abandoned town of Quneitra last month.
Fighters from al-Qaida's Syria branch abducted the Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded two Filipino contingents serving as peacekeepers the following day. The Filipino troops later escaped.
The U.N. force, known as UNDOF, was established in May 1974 following intensified firing on the Israel-Syria border after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967, and Syria has campaigned for decades for return of the land.
For nearly four decades, the U.N. monitors helped enforce a stable truce between Israel and Syria but the Golan Heights has increasingly become a battlefield in the more than three-year-old Syrian conflict.