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Colombia's rebels condition prisoner swap on military withdrawal from two towns

Colombia's rebels condition prisoner swap on military withdrawal from two towns

Colombia's largest rebel group said the government must withdraw its forces from two southern towns before any progress can be made on a proposed swap of kidnapped prisoners for jailed guerrillas.
The statement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was in response to President Alvaro Uribe's recent decision to reauthorize European diplomats to jump-start talks with the rebels that he angrily broke off two months ago.
"We'll begin to believe in the option of a humanitarian exchange the day the President orders the withdrawal of security forces from the towns of Florida and Pradera," said Raul Reyes, a FARC commander and spokesman, in an interview published Tuesday on the pro-rebel Web site Anncol.
Reyes was referring to the two remote towns in southwestern Colombia _ a longtime FARC stronghold _ which both sides have been eyeing as a location for talks aimed at freeing some 60 so-called political prisoners, including three American defense contractors.
"Without this prerequisite, whatever the president says is nothing more than demagoguery, stalling, deception and a lack of respect to the family members, individuals and countries who are promoting this potential agreement," said Reyes.
Uribe broke off contacts with the FARC on Oct. 20, after blaming the leftist rebels for a car bombing a day earlier at a military university in Bogota that injured 23 people.
Calling the FARC "scoundrels," he also said the three European peace facilitators _ France, Spain and Switzerland _ should provide military instead of diplomatic assistance to guarantee the release of the prisoners, among them former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who has French citizenship and has become a cause celebre in France.
Also being held are three American defense contractors whose small plane crashed into the jungle canopy in February 2003 while on anti-narcotics mission.
Many family members of those held have said they are unconvinced by Uribe's latest gesture.


Updated : 2021-04-22 22:58 GMT+08:00