"She deserves every bit of respect that's been given to her," said Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, a group that visited Baghdad frequently in the late 1990s to protest the international sanctions that many aid workers said were hurting not the government of Saddam Hussein but Iraq's poor, especially children.
"There was a very steadying sense talking to Margaret," Kelly said. "She wasn't someone who ever tried to call attention to herself or pull rank on anybody because she had more experience than anyone else in Iraq.
An Iraqi guardsman patrols outside his base in Mushahidah, north of Baghdad, after a mortar attack killed five Iraqi National Guard members and injured 80.
(Hadi Mizban -- AP)
"There was also that kind of stunning determination to remain in Iraq no matter how conditions were."
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to help secure Hassan's release.
"This is someone who has lived in Iraq for 30 years, someone who is immensely respected, someone who is doing her level best to help the country," Blair said. "It shows you the type of people we are up against, that they are prepared to kidnap somebody like this."
Elsewhere in Iraq on Tuesday, five members of the Iraqi National Guard were killed and 80 injured when mortar shells rained down on a base in Mushahidah, north of Baghdad, as about 550 guardsmen gathered in front of the main building.
Lt. Col. Waleed Mohammed Mashhadani, who said the base had been the target of several mortar attacks, said the shells fell from close by. U.S. helicopters raced to evacuate the most seriously wounded, but many Iraqis who live near the base refused to lend assistance.
"I saw some of the National Guards come out bleeding and asking for help," said Saber Ghanim, 23, who owns a tea stand near the front gate of the base. "No one helped them except a minibus driver who stopped and took some of them. They deserved that, because they treat us worse than the Americans."
Ghanim and others complained that the guardsmen raid private homes almost daily, humiliate people at checkpoints and accuse residents with the long beards uncommon in Iraq of being terrorists or Wahhabis -- adherents to the conservative strain of Sunni Islam, Osama bin Laden among them.
Jasim Mohammed Abbas, a guardsman wounded in the back and arm by shrapnel, vowed revenge. "This makes us more willing to continue," he said. "And we will give those Wahhabis a lesson they'll never forget."
A pre-dawn mortar attack on a U.S. base in Baghdad killed an American civilian working for the defense contractor KBR, the Associated Press reported.
Special correspondent Bassam Sebti in Mushahidah contributed to this report.