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Thousands march in Paris for Betancourt's release

Latest update : 2008-04-06

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner were among thousands of demonstrators who staged a solemn march in Paris to call for Colombian rebels to release hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

France kept pressure on FARC guerrillas Sunday to give a French-led team access to Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian hostage said to be in dire health after years held captive in the jungle.
  
A French government Falcon 50 jet with two doctors and also possibly two diplomats, one French and one Swiss, on board remained parked at a military base in the Colombian capital, where it has been since Thursday.
  
French Foreign Minister Benard Koucher has vowed the aircraft "will stay put where it is" until some sort of response from the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was forthcoming.
  
"We're waiting for news from the FARC" Kouchner said in an interview with French television on Saturday, adding the French government was "determined" to wait it out.
  
In Paris, French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy joined thousands of people in a march to press for the release of Betancourt, 46, who was snatched in February 2002 as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency.
  
The FARC thus far have given no sign of agreeing to allow the French-led team to see Betancourt, said to be suffering from hepatitis B and leishmaniasis, a parasitic infection of the skin. Videos seized from the rebels in November showed her looking gaunt and frail.
  
According to Colombian reports and witness accounts, she has been refusing food and medical care from the FARC from the past five weeks.
  
A statement from the rebel group made public Thursday stated no hostages would be released without a prisoner swap.
  
Betancourt is among 39 high-profile hostages, including three US defense contractors, whom the FARC wants to exchange for 500 rebels held in Colombian and US prisons.
  
The governor of the densely forested Colombian area 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Bogota where Betancourt is believed to be held, Oscar Lopez, noted that the rebels "have given no sign" of letting Betancourt go.
  
Bogota has agreed to suspend military operations against the FARC to allow the deployment of the humanitarian mission, and last week it even suggested it would release some jailed rebels if Betancourt and other hostages were freed.

Date created : 2008-04-06

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