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French plane leaves Colombia after hostage mission fails

Published on April 10, 2008

  BOGOTA, April 10, 2008  - A French plane carrying a medical missionleft Colombia on Wednesday after France failed to convince Marxist rebels tolet its doctors see ailing French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.   The plane had been on standby in Bogota awaiting permission from theRevolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to fly to the aid of Betancourt,who has been held in the jungle for more than six years.   But the FARC rejected the mercy mission sent by French President NicolasSarkozy, saying in a statement on Tuesday that it does not act "underblackmail or under pressure from media campaigns."   Betancourt, 46, is a former Colombian presidential candidate who is among39 high-profile hostages whom FARC want the Colombian government to swap for500 jailed rebels.   The two sides, however, have failed on agree on conditions for an exchange.   The French government had already tried to rescue Betancourt once before  in July 2003, when it secretly sent a plane to Brazil's Amazon regionbelieving she might be freed.   But the operation failed and angered the governments of Colombia andBrazil, which had not been notified.

AFP