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Response team on mission to release Wood -

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Response team on mission to release Wood

Reporter: Norman Hermant

TONY JONES: Australia's emergency response team is believed to be on the ground in Iraq tonight.
Its mission to win the release of Australian hostage Douglas Wood is already under way. The
Government says it will immediately try to open lines of communication with the militants holding
Mr Wood. But today the Defence Minister said he's not confident the Australian hostage will be
brought out alive, and while that scenario plays out in Iraq, one of the most notorious episodes of
the war is nearing an end. US Army Private Lynndie England has pleaded guilty in the Abu Ghraib
prisoner abuse scandal. It's expected she'll be sentenced later this week. Norman Hermant reports.

NORMAN HERMANT: More than a day after the emergence of this message, it remains the only
communication from the militants holding Australian Douglas Wood. It's still not known when or
where the 63-year-old engineer was taken hostage or in what part of Iraq he's being held. Today the
Defence Minister, just back from Iraq, had this blunt assessment on whether Mr Wood will be found

ROBERT HILL, DEFENCE MINISTER: No, I haven't got confidence of that. You can't look at the history
of hostage-taking over the last few years in Iraq and have confidence in that outcome.

NORMAN HERMANT: The hostage crisis comes with Alexander Downer already in New York for Nuclear
Non-Proliferation talks. The Foreign Minister says the UN secretary-general - and others - were
quick to offer assistance.

ALEXANDER DOWNER, FOREIGN MINISTER: We're very pleased that the UN secretary-general is helping, to
have the UN supporting us, as well as the countries which have troops in Iraq, the US, the UK and
others, and the Iraqi government itself.

NORMAN HERMANT: The emergency response team dispatched by Canberra to win Mr Wood's release is
expected to arrive tonight amidst yet another surge of violence. The Defence Minister says their
first priority will be to establish contact with Sunni religious and tribal leaders.

ROBERT HILL: In a number of instances where hostages have been successfully recovered, it's either
been tribal or religious leaders that have played a key role in facilitating that recovery.

NORMAN HERMANT: As Australia focused on the plight of one of its own, much of the attention in the
US was on the aftermath of another Iraq story. Private Lynndie England walked into a US Army court
martial and pleaded guilty. More than any other, hers is the face of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse
scandal. It's expected under a deal with prosecutors, Private England will be sentenced to no more
than 30 months behind bars for prisoner abuse. She is the eighth American soldier to plead guilty
or be convicted in the Abu Ghraib case. No senior officers have been charged, and last week a
Pentagon inquiry cleared four generals of any blame.

ELISA MASSIMINO, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: The message that has come down through the various internal
investigations put together by the Pentagon is that the senior leadership is not going to take the
fall for this stuff.

NORMAN HERMANT: Private England testified her journey from typical high school graduate to this was
motivated by her love for Specialist Charles Graner. It's believed he is the father of her baby,
born last year. In January, he was sentenced to 10 years for his role in the abuse, and observers
say the military hopes now this saga is almost over.

this case, close out these court martials on Abu Ghraib and move onto other things.

NORMAN HERMANT: The trials may be nearing their end, but in much of the Islamic world, the memory
of these images still lingers.