Ecuador ready to recognise FARC if 'terrorism' stops

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said he was willing to recognise Colombia's FARC as a legitimate fighting force if the Marxist rebels cease their "acts of terrorism" and "free unconditionally all the hostages they are holding."


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Leftist Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said Wednesday he was willing to recognize Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels as legitimate combatants if they stop acting like terrorists.

"To attain that status they would have to give up all activities contrary to the rules of war, such as kidnappings, attacks that can qualify as acts of terrorism, bombings, etcetera," Correa said in an interview with Venezuelan television.

"We say this categorically, they must give up actions that go against human rights ... and free unconditionally all the hostages they are holding," Correa added.

It was the first time Correa spoke about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia either as a legitimate fighting force -- he used the term "belligerent force" -- or as a terrorist group, which is how the United States, Europe and Colombia brand them.

Correa a week ago denied Colombian charges he was too lenient with FARC rebels, and warned that any rebel incursion into Ecuador would be deemed an "an act of war" to be dealt with accordingly.

The FARC rebels persistently cross the border into Ecuador. A Colombian military attack March 1 on a FARC rebel camp inside Ecuador triggered a week-long diplomatic row, in which Venezuela took Quito's side.

Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently pressed the international community to stop branding FARC rebels as terrorists, insisting that they be given "belligerent status" as a legitimate fighting force.

The FARC, South America's oldest and largest insurgency, are accused of holding an estimated 750 people hostage and funding their activities through drug trafficking.

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