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FARC rebels warn Sarkozy against criticism

©

Latest update : 2008-02-02

Colombian guerrillas told French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday to stop criticizing them if he hopes to gain the release of hostages including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

BOGOTA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Colombian guerrillas told French
President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday to stop criticizing them
if he hopes to gain the release of hostages including
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

 

Rebel leaders hit back after the conservative Sarkozy
slammed their Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC,
for using kidnapping in their four-decade-old war against the
state.

"International mediation must not favor one side or the
other, or else it will lose credibility," the FARC said in a
statement.

The group is holding hundreds of hostages, including
Betancourt, snatched during her 2002 presidential campaign, and
three American anti-drug contractors captured in 2003.

 

"I do not share your ideas and I condemn your methods,
especially kidnapping, which brings sadness to so many
families," Sarkozy publicly told the FARC late on Wednesday.
"No struggle makes sense without respect for human dignity."

He called on the FARC to enter talks aimed at exchanging
Betancourt and dozens of other high-profile hostages for rebels
held in government jails.

 

Guerrilla leaders embraced the short-lived mediation
efforts of Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez until he
was removed from the role last month by Colombia's conservative
leader Alvaro Uribe, causing a diplomatic row.

 

Since then, Sarkozy has stepped up France's effort to reach
a hostage deal.

The FARC statement calls his initiative "laudable."

"But an exchange means an exchange," it said. "Any
international agreement on this subject must recognize that."

 

Colombia's government last week released videos of
rebel-held hostages, sparking an outcry over their plight. One
showed Betancourt looking gaunt and depressed in the secret
jungle camp where she is being held.

The FARC says it is fighting for socialism, but it finances
its war with cocaine trafficking and even left-wing Colombian
politicians says the group has scant popular support.

 

The rebels reiterated their demand that Uribe demilitarize
a New York City-size rural area for 45 days of talks on a
hostage deal. He refuses, saying that would allow the FARC a
chance to regroup.

Date created : 2007-12-06

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