France to send mission to treat FARC hostage Betancourt
Nicolas Sarkozy said he will send a humanitarian mission to treat French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancout, as Colombia agreed to suspend military operations.PARIS, April 2, 2008 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday
he will send a humanitarian mission to treat French-Colombian hostage Ingrid
Betancout, as Colombia agreed to suspend military operations where she is
Sarkozy called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to inform him of his
"intention to send without delay a humanitarian mission on site to make
contact with the FARC and obtain access to our fellow citizen," an Elysee
The call came amid a flurry of Paris initiatives to secure the release of
the former Colombian presidential candidate from FARC rebels.
Sarkozy told Uribe of his "extreme worry based on information about Ingrid
Betancourt's state of health".
Having been given assurances to that effect, Sarkozy "reiterates his appeal
to FARC to seize this unique occasion to release Ingrid Betancourt," the
The mission will be accompanied by the International Committee of the Red
Cross, the Colombian leader told reporters after speaking with Sarkozy.
"Once relevant authorities are informed by the humanitarian mission about
the coordinates of the area where they will be admitted... we will suspend
military action there," Uribe said.
Sarkozy had earlier pleaded with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) leader Manuel Marulanda to release the joint French-Colombian national, saying Betancourt was so sick she might die.
"Ingrid is in danger of imminent death ... She no longer has the strength
to resist an interminable captivity that is turning into tragedy," said
Sarkozy, who met earlier Tuesday with the head of a support committee to free
"You who lead the FARC, you now have a rendezvous with history. Do not miss
it. Free Ingrid Betancourt and those of the other hostages who are weakest,"
Betancourt, thought to be gravely ill after six years in captivity in the
Colombian jungle, was also said Tuesday by the president of a French support
group to have been on hunger strike.
She has become a cause celebre in France due to high-profile campaigning by her family and friends here.
The 46-year-old is believed to be suffering from hepatitis B and
leishmania, a skin disease caused by insect bites. Videos seized from the
rebels in November showed her looking gaunt and frail.
France last weekend put a plane and a medical team on standby in case she
Betancourt was captured in February 2002 by guerrillas of the FARC while
campaigning for the Colombian presidency.
The Marxist FARC, which has been fighting the Colombian government for more than 40 years, is believed to be holding more than 700 people hostage in the jungles of the Latin American state.
Betancourt is among 39 high-profile hostages, including three US defence
contractors, whom the FARC wants to exchange for 500 rebels held in prison.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon repeated Tuesday that France was
ready to offer political asylum to FARC rebels freed from prison in exchange
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and support groups for
Betancourt had earlier issued a joint appeal to Colombia to halt military
maneouvres in a bid to break the crisis impasse.
"It is with immense concern that we have noted that military operations and
bombing continue and are intensifying in the regions where it is presumed that
the FARC hold people in captivity," wrote the FIDH and the support groups in
an open letter to Uribe.
The letter said that if Betancourt or others died because of Colombian army
attacks, "you (President Uribe) will no longer be the democratic leader you
aspire to be but the torturer of these defenceless people."