French mission to seek access to Betancourt

April 2nd, 2008 - 5:40 pm ICT by admin  

Paris, April 2 (IANS) France will send a “humanitarian mission” to negotiate with Colombia’s leftist guerrillas release of their most prominent hostage, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, President Nicolas Sarkozy has said. In a televised appeal Tuesday, Sarkozy urged the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to immediately release ailing Betancourt, now in the sixth year of captivity, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Wednesday.

“Don’t miss the chance presented to you, it would be a grave political error, a humanitarian tragedy, a crime. You would be responsible for the death of a woman,” the president said in a televised message directed to the FARC’s chief Manuel ‘Sureshot’ Marulanda.

Meanwhile, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, following telephonic talks with Sarkozy, agreed to suspend military operation in the southeastern province of Guaviare, where Betancourt, who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship, is thought to be held.

Demilitarisation of the southeastern province had been a key precondition of the rebels for hostage release talks that the Colombian government had long refused to entertain.

Yves Jego, secretary of state for France’s overseas territory, said earlier that an aircraft was ready in French Guiana for possible use in an operation aimed at securing the release of Betancourt.

According to the statement, Sarkozy telephoned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who mediated the FARC’s unilateral release of six hostages since Jan 1. It did not give further details of the conversation.

Several of the six hostages recently freed by the FARC have reported that Betancourt, 46, is in very poor health.

The FARC wants to exchange Betancourt and 39 other captives for hundreds of jailed guerrillas.

The president assured he would continue working for release of the hostages in exchange for jailed guerrillas, provided FARC first free Betancourt and other hostages with serious health problems.

The president said he was only waiting for a “signal” from the FARC to mobilise a humanitarian mission to receive Betancourt and the other ailing hostages.

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Fran

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