French president urges Colombian rebels to release Betancout

March 6th, 2008 - 2:36 pm ICT by admin  

Paris, March 6 (Xinhua) French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged Colombia’s leftist insurgent group to release former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt taken hostage six years ago. Sarkozy said he had taped an appeal to be broadcast on Colombian television urging the release of Betancourt, who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship, by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Le Figaro daily reported Wednesday.

The president also warned that the leader of FARC would be seen as a murderer if he lets Betancourt die.

A diplomatic row between Colombia and Ecuador has flared up following a raid on FARC hideouts by the Colombian Army last weekend in the Ecuadorian jungles across the border that killed the outfit’s second-in-command Raul Reyes.

The two countries have severed diplomatic relations, recalling diplomatic staff and closing down embassies in each other’s country.

According to reports, Reyes had played a major role in convincing the guerrillas to release the hostages that have been freed so far. He is the only high-ranking leader within the rebel outfit known to have had contact with the outside world.

FARC guerrillas are reportedly holding 39 “political” hostages, including Betancourt and three Americans, whom they want to swap with some 500 cadres in Colombian jails.

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