Jailed rebels in Colombia reject release offer

1st June 2007, Comments 0 comments

BOGOTA, May 31, 2007 (AFP) - Imprisoned leftist guerrillas on Thursday rejected an offer to be released as a way to pressure their comrades to release 56 hostages, including three Americans and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

BOGOTA, May 31, 2007 (AFP) - Imprisoned leftist guerrillas on Thursday rejected an offer to be released as a way to pressure their comrades to release 56 hostages, including three Americans and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Uribe, citing "reasons of state," announced on May 25 that his government planned to release a large group of jailed guerrillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by June 7.

However according to FARC statements posted on the Internet, the offer "is only aimed at diverting the attention from the grave institutional crisis" in Colombia created by the scandal over links between top government officials and right-wing paramilitary groups.

"We are not prepared to negotiate principles," read another statement, signed by several imprisoned guerrillas.

The "only true way" for a release, it said, "is for an exchange of prisoners, which can also be the point of departure to find roads towards peace with social justice."

According to the statement, those who will take advantage of the release offer "are today no longer FARC members."

It is unclear if the statements are supported by all or just some of the imprisoned FARC guerrillas.

Government officials are preparing the release of between 350 and 400 FARC guerrillas by June 7. Leaders of the 17,000-strong FARC say they want 500 imprisoned rebels released.

France has pressed Uribe to undertake an exchange to safely free Betancourt, 45, who was running for the Colombian presidency when she was seized by the group in 2002.

FARC leaders have rejected offers of a unilateral government prisoner release, saying they would only negotiate a swap if the government creates a demilitarized zone in two southwestern Colombian towns.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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