Hopes for the release of two kidnapped French journalists in Iraq have given way as doubts over their future continues to grow.
French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was to gather his top ministers in crisis talks over the two French journalists and their Syrian driver who have been held hostage in Iraq since 20 August.
Radio France correspondent Christian Chesnot, Le Figaro reporter Georges Malbrunot and their driver were kidnapped by the so called Islamic Army in Iraq, in an attempt to get the ban on religious garments removed from French state schools.
An apparent deadline was approaching on Wednesday for the payment of a $5 million ransom.
French media say the French government has not heard from the hostage-takers since Sunday evening.