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French foreign minister to try to free Betancourt

Latest update : 2008-04-26

Bernard Kouchner will visit Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela to try and find a way to free Ingrid Betancourt, after France abandoned a medical mission to treat the FARC-held hostage earlier this month.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will visit Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela next week to seek a way of freeing Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages held by Colombian FARC guerrillas, his office said on Friday.
 
Paris earlier this month abandoned a mission to send a medical team to treat Betancourt, a Franco-Colombian citizen kidnapped by the Marxist FARC while campaigning for the presidency in 2002.
 
France said earlier this month that Betancourt was seriously ill and that the country would seek other ways to help her after the medical mission collapsed.
 
Kouchner will discuss the hostages with the three heads of state "and speak about the urgency of finding a humanitarian solution that could lead to the release of the hostages held by the FARC," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
 
"The minister will reiterate France's desire that trusting relations be renewed between the three countries. Such a normalisation can only help the hostages' cause," it added.
 
Colombia earlier this year raided an area inside Ecuador to kill a rebel leader, triggering a dispute that spread across the region with leftist ally Venezuela joining Ecuador in cutting relations with Colombia.
 
After days of hostile rhetoric and troop buildups, the presidents of the three countries ended the dispute with handshakes at a summit on March 7.
 
President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it a priority to secure the release of Betancourt who has spent more than six years in captivity.
 
Betancourt, three Americans, politicians, police and soldiers are among 40 political captives whom the FARC says it wants to exchange for jailed fighters. The guerrillas and government are deadlocked over a hostage deal.
 
Kouchner is due to visit Bogota on April 28, Quito on April 29, and Caracas on April 30 and will also discuss economic cooperation between France and the three countries, the Foreign Ministry said.

Date created : 2008-04-25

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