WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The United States said on Friday that it will not negotiate with terrorists taking foreign hostages in an Algerian gas field.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland ruled out the possibility in response to the militants' demand for release of Pakistani doctor Aafia Siddiqui and Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric known as "the blind sheikh", who were convicted in the United States on terrorism charges.
"The United States does not negotiate with terrorists," Nuland told reporters at a regular news briefing.
She said the hostage situation "remains extremely fluid" on the ground, and Washington was continuing its work with the Algerian government and other countries involved for a solution.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Friday for a straight third day to " get his perspective about exactly what's happening on the ground, how the operation is unfolding," Nuland said.
"She obviously expressed our concern for our citizens," she noted. "As we have throughout this, we urged that we minimize loss of civilian life here."
The top American envoy spoke as well of efforts to "strengthen Algeria's capacity against terror," Nuland said, adding "She made clear that even after this incident is over, we want to continue to deepen and strengthen that relationship."
"But given that this is an ongoing hostage situation, I am still not going to be in a position to get into any details here with regard to the status of Americans or any other hostages out of concern for the safety and security of all of them and the hope that we can minimize the loss of innocent life here," she said.
The Algerian military launched an air and ground assault on Thursday in an attempt to rescue hostages taken a day earlier at the oil facility near In Amenas by al-Qaida-affiliated militants to avenge Algeria's support for French involvement in conflict in neighboring Mali.
More than 670 hostages, including 573 Algerians and about 100 foreigners, were freed in the raid, but an unspecified number of people were killed as well, Algeria's APS news agency said.
The operation has drawn criticism from countries like Japan and Britain who said they were not consulted before the action.