Colombia hostages in 'life and death' crisis: French PM

9th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

French PM warns Colombia hostages in 'life and death' crisis.

   BUENOS AIRES, December 10, 2007 - France's Prime Minister warned Saturday
the plight of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt was "a matter of life
and death," as support for the release of her and others by Colombian rebels
intensified in Argentina.
   "She must be freed. It is clearly a matter of life and death," Francois
Fillon told reporters in Buenos Aires, where he had arrived for the swearing
in on Monday of Argentina's new president, Cristina Kirchner.
   "No one wants to bear responsibility for failure" of efforts to free her,
he said.
   The outgoing president, Cristina Kirchner's husband Nestor, said he is
ready to go into the jungle and negotiate with the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC) for Betancourt's release, the hostage's husband Juan Carlos
Lecompte said here Saturday.
   Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana was due to meet with Betancourt's
mother Yolanda Pulecio on Sunday in Buenos Aires, a ministry source told AFP.
   Betancourt, captured in February 2002, is held along with dozens of other
hostages including Colombian politicians and officials, and three US
contractors captured one year later when their plane was shot down as they
carried out drug surveillance.
   Fillon's remarks came two days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy
called directly on the Colombian rebels' leader to free Betancourt and offered
his personal support for efforts to free her. He also urged Nestor Kirchner to
   "The president's call to the international community was clearly heard,
particularly by the Colombian president" Alvaro Uribe, Fillon added. "It is a
call for a humanitarian gesture by the FARC."
   He added: "France is ready to continue working on peaceful solutions to
free the other hostages."
   Uribe on Friday announced plans to set up a demilitarized "meeting zone" in
which  hostages could be exchanged -- a key demand of the FARC which he has
previously resisted.
   The Marxist rebels want 500 of their members to be freed from prison in
return for the hostages' release.
   Also due in Buenos Aires for the swearing-in was Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez, who was fired by Uribe from his role as mediator with the FARC on the
hostage crisis. Chavez has insisted he is still ready to help.


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