FARC rebels rule out further negotiations

Columbia's FARC rebels say they won't discuss hostage releases with anyone except Venezuelan presidnet Hugo Chavez. This as the French foreign minister flies to the region to drum up support for Ingrid Betancourt's release. (Report: O.Fairclough)


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was due to arrive here Monday to press for the release of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who is being held by leftist rebels.

Analysts said however that Kouchner, who will also travel to Ecuador and Venezuela during his trip, is not likely to find favorable conditions for a release of Betancourt, who has been held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for six years in the Colombian jungle.

"The climate is not the best, it's difficult, although things can change from black to white in politics," said Carlos Jose Herrera, of Colombia's University of Pamplona.

He said that Kouchner's visit offers an opportunity to work out a "humanitarian agreement" with the FARC, one that might lead to the release of Betancourt and scores of other hostages, as well as hundreds of rebel fighters being held by the Colombian government.

Betancourt is among 39 high-profile hostages who the FARC rebel group wants to exchange with the government for 500 of their jailed fellow guerillas.

The FARC, which has been fighting Bogota for four decades, has held Betancourt since February 2002, when she was abducted as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency.

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