Colombian radio airs Sarkozy's appeal for hostages
Broadcast of the original text in French and the Spanish translation of Sarkozy's message
BOGOTA, December 6, 2007 - Colombian radios on Thursday broadcast in its entirety French President Nicolas Sarkozy plea to Marxist rebels to release French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages.
The radio stations broadcast the original text in French and the Spanish translation of the message Sarkozy addressed to Manuel Marulanda, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Sarkozy urged the FARC to free the hostages it has held for years and offered to help in efforts to release jailed rebels. But he insisted the most urgent was the fate of Betancourt, who he said was in danger of dying.
Leftist senator Gustavo Petro urged Marulanda to pay close attention to the request.
"Hopefully he will think about it and make the right decision, as that will determine the fate of these people," said Petro.
The Colombian Senate, meanwhile asked the FARC to allow a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross to attend to the hostages. Several of the hostages, including Betancourt, appeared in poor health in recently released video footage.
"We ask the FARC to comply with humanitarian principles that oblige them to allow an ICRC mission to attend to every one of the hostages," the Senate's Peace and Humanitarian Accord commission said in a statement.
The government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the FARC are considering swapping about 500 jailed rebels for hostages.
The government's efforts have focused, mainly on the more than 45 "political" hostages, including Betancourt and three Americans, but authorities insisted last week the FARC must also release some 750 people held for ransom.
Hugo Chavez had initially mediated in the efforts to release the hostages but Uribe dropped him from that role last month, claiming the leftist Venezuelan President was biased in favor of the FARC.
Colombian Piedad Cordoba, who had mediated alongside Chavez, claimed Sakorzy's message would have no impact whatsoever.
"President Sarkozy knows ... that if we truly wanted to free people, the person who has to lead this process is President Chavez and the government.
The president of my country also knows that," Cordoba told Venezuela's state-run VTV television.
"The connecting thread is President Chavez, there can be no mistake," she said.
She said Chavez will record a message for the hostages.
Betancourt, 45, was captured in 2002 while running for the Colombian presidency. US Defense Department contractors Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes, were seized the following year when their plane was shot down during an anti-drug mission.
The Colombian government has been struggling for more than 40 years to defeat the 17,000-strong FARC, which draws much of its funding from the illegal drug trade.