Colombia willing to negotiate hostage release: President

June 23rd, 2008 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Bogota, June 23 (IANS) Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has reiterated his willingness to strike an humanitarian accord with the country’s leftist insurgents for release of hostages, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Monday. Uribe’s statement came after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) delivered a video Saturday as a proof of life of legislator Sigifredo Lopez, the only surviving member of a group of 12 politicians kidnapped in 2002.

Lopez said in his message that “the political show that any meeting between the FARC and the government inevitably will create (is preferable) to the spilling of blood that misunderstanding (between them) will cause.”

Eleven others kidnapped along with Lopez were slain during a raid on the rebel camp in 2007 by a paramilitary group.

The Colombian president, however, insisted that the talks for the release of the hostages are to be carried out by the Catholic Church, and the three European countries - France, Spain and Switzerland.

Late last year, Uribe stopped mediation efforts by leftist legislator Piedad Cordoba and Venezuela’s leftist president Hugo Chavez saying that Chavez had overstepped his brief when he directly spoke to Colombian army chief.

The guerrilla group is holding 40 high-value hostages it deems “exchangeable” for as many as 500 jailed rebels. The most prominent among the hostages are former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractors.

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