Bhubaneswar: Talks to secure the safe release of two Italians taken hostage by Maoists since over a week in Odisha's Kandhamal district resumed here on Friday amid a demand by the interlocutors that a top jailed Maoist leader be included in the negotiations, official said.

The talks, which began in state capital Bhubaneswar on Thursday, had remained inconclusive after the officials representing the state government told Maoist mediators that they cannot take a decision on their various demands and need to consult the government.

The officials are expected to put forth the response of the government on the Maoist demands.The guerillas' mediators, Dandapani Mohanty and B.D. Sharma, have said the hostages are safe and in good health. They have insisted on the participation of any of the top jailed Maoist leaders in the negotiation process.

They had named three Maoists - Kobad Gandhi, Amit Bagchi and Narayan Sanyal. It is not yet clear if the government has accepted their proposal. The Maoists negotiators had also said the guerillas have agreed to release one of the Italians if the government accepts two of their demands.

The demands are the release of five ultras arrested on 'false charges' and action against policemen accused of killing Maoists in staged gunbattles and of rape. The government representatives are also expected to announce their stand on the offer.The Italians Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61 were abducted from the border of Ganjam and communally sensitive Kandhamal district March 14.

The 13 demands the rebels have placed for their release include a ban on the visit of tourists to the tribal areas; halt on anti Maoist operations, and release of several prisoners. The three senior officials representing the government are state Home Secretary U.N. Behera, Panchayati Raj Secretary P.K. Jena and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Development Department Secretary Santosh Sarangi.

In the meanwhile, people from a cross section of society Friday carried out processions and marches in different parts of the state to protest the abduction and to seek early release of the hostages.

(Agencies)