Betancourt arrives in FranceJuly 4th, 2008 - 11:26 pm ICT by IANS
Paris, July 4 (DPA) Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt arrived in Paris Friday as questions arose about the official story regarding her liberation. The French online news daily MediaPart Friday contradicted the account put forward by the Colombian government, that its agents had infiltrated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and freed Betancourt and 14 other hostages through a clever ploy.
MediaPart reported that it had learned the hostages had actually been freed through an agreement between Bogota and the FARC, in exchange for political asylum for FARC members in France and the payment of a ransom.
In addition, Swiss radio station Radio Suisse Romande (RSR), citing sources close to the events, reported that Colombian and US authorities had paid $20 million to the FARC guerrillas guarding Betancourt and the other hostages to obtain their freedom.
A spokesman for the French foreign ministry Friday denied that Paris had paid a ransom to obtain Betancourt’s release.
“The answer is no,” Eric Chevallier said, adding that France had not been informed about the military action that presumably led to Betancourt’s liberation.
After arriving at at Villacoublay military airport outside Paris and being greeted by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla, the 46-year-old Beancourt said the Colombian agents who rescued her after she had spent more than six years in captivity were not armed.
“There was not a single shot fired,” she said.
She said that she owed her life to the French insistence that Colombia undertake no armed military operation to rescue the hostages.
“This extraordinary, immaculate operation was also the product of your struggle,” she said. “France was opposed to any operation that threatened the lives of the hostages, and my life.”
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” a delighted Sarkozy told Betancourt after her arrival. “All of France is happy that you are here. All of France admires your dignity.”
Betancourt replied, “I have dreamed for seven years to experience this moment”. Then addressing both Sarkozy and the French people, who had turned her plight into a national cause, she said, “I owe you everything”.
Betancourt was partly raised in France and has French citizenship through her first marriage. She was accompanied on the flight to Paris by her three children, her sister, her ex-husband Fabrice Delloye and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
At the conclusion of her statement, she broke into tears, and said, “I cried out of grief for seven years. Today I am crying tears of joy”.
Later Friday Betancourt will attend a ceremony at the Elysee Palace with her family and the members of the French Betancourt Support Committee.
She will then go into seclusion for some time to be with her family, before meeting Pope Benedict XVI next week. She has also been invited to attend the French national holiday celebrations July 14.