No deal with France over Granda's release

12th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

BOGOTA, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - Colombian rebel forces made no deal with French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the release of its number two man Rodrigo Granda, a spokesman for the rebel group says.

BOGOTA, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - Colombian rebel forces made no deal with French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the release of its number two man Rodrigo Granda, a spokesman for the rebel group says.

"There was no agreement between the French government and us for Granda's release," Raul Reyes, number two in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), said Monday in an interview with a Colombian journalist.

Ordered by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Granda's release last week, along with 150 others jailed FARC rebels, raised hopes -- so far unfulfilled -- of a reciprocal release of some 56 high-profile hostages held by the FARC.

Sarkozy had reportedly requested Uribe free Granda to speed up the FARC's release of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, whose 2002 kidnapping as she ran for president drew world attention to Colombia's plague of hostage takings.

Granda, who was known as the FARC's "foreign minister," has refused to act as mediator in the Betancourt case. He has also said his release from jail was a decision by the government and that he made no deal.

Reyes said the 150 rebels unilaterally released by the government last week had made their own deal with the government, while "comrade Granda never accepted any of the government's demands."

Reyes, however, thanked Sarkozy's "intervention before the Uribe government asking for Granda's unilateral release," but reiterated the FARC's longstanding demand for a demilitarized zone before discussing any prisoner exchange with the government.

"Without the demilitarization of Florida and Pradera (municipalities), FARC cannot accept any meeting with representatives of the present government. FARC ... will meet with the government only in the demilitarized municipalities.

"There's no chance for any meeting without that guarantee," he said.

The two municipalities in southwestern Colombia have figured in FARC's constant demand that the military withdraw and leave them with an enclave for peace negotiations.

Uribe has steadfastly refused to withdraw troops from the 800 square-kilometer (300 square-mile) area he feels sure FARC would turn into its main stronghold.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Ambassador to Colombia, Jose Antonio Perez, offered FARC and the Uribe administration to meet in Cuba to work out a prisoner exchange deal.

"As long as both sides in the conflict request it, Cuba is always ready to help," Perez told RCN Television.

Betancourt is among 56 high-profile kidnap victims held by FARC, including three Americans hired by the US government who were captured in 2003 after their plane crashed during an anti-drug mission. Other hostages include Colombian politicians, military and police officers.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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