Slain leader wanted to meet French president: Colombian rebels

March 5th, 2008 - 4:00 pm ICT by admin  

Bogota, March 5 (Xinhua) Colombia’s largest leftist insurgency group has said their slain leader Raul Reyes was planning to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy over hostage release at the time he was killed by the Colombian Army. Reyes, whose real name was Luis Edgar Devia Silva, was killed in an attack on a rebel camp in the jungle across the Colombia-Ecuador border Saturday. His death sparked tension between the two countries.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in a statement that Reyes was planning to meet French President Sarkozy to discuss the release of former presidential candidate of Colombia Ingrid Betancourt.

Betancourt was kidnapped by the FARC in 2002 while campaigning for the presidential election.

The rebel group is seeking a deal with the Colombian government to exchange some 40 high-profile captives, including Betancourt, who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship, with 500 jailed FARC cadres.

The Ecuadorian government has accused Colombia’s military operation as a violation of the country’s territorial sovereignty. Venezuela also condemned the incident.

In the backlash of the army operation across Ecuadorian border, Quito broke off diplomatic ties with Bogota Monday, while Venezuela expelled the Colombian ambassador. Both Ecuador and Venezuela have boosted their military presence on the borders with Colombia.

Meanwhile, France said Reyes was their only contact in seeking to free Betancourt. France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said: “It is a very bad news that the man with whom we were speaking has died.”

Reyes was the FARC’s second most important leader and likely successor to the group’s 77-year-old head Manuel Marulanda.

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