France halts medical mission to aid abductee Betancourt

April 9th, 2008 - 4:41 pm ICT by admin  

Paris/Bogota, April 9 (DPA) France has cancelled its planned mission to provide medical treatment to French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt, who is reportedly languishing in poor health after more than six years as a captive of Marxist rebels. The foreign ministry announced late Tuesday in Paris that a French Air Force plane, equipped to deliver medical treatment and waiting since last week in Bogota, would be flying home.

French authorities had been waiting in vain for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to agree to allow Betancourt to receive a visit from French doctors.

The Marxist guerrillas, who have fought a more than 40-year insurgency, issued a statement Tuesday calling the French mission an “inappropriate” publicity stunt. FARC said it did not agree in advance to allow treatment and described the mission as “blackmail”.

Betancourt, 46, is FARC highest-profile hostage. She was a candidate for president in Colombia when she was abducted by FARC forces in February 2002.

The French Air Force plane arrived Thursday in hopes of delivering treatment for to Betancourt, who has been reported by recently freed fellow captives to be gravely ill from several conditions including hepatitis B.

FARC is believed to be holding 740 people as hostages. The rebels have been in talks to exchange about 40 of its captives - soldiers, police officers and politicians including Betancourt - for 500 FARC members imprisoned by the Colombian government.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says that his government is willing to exchange FARC rebels for Betancourt and other abductees, but he refuses to demilitarise territory as demanded by the rebels.

Betancourt was kidnapped during a presidential campaign, after entering a demilitarised FARC safe haven, against the advice of the government at the time.

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