Friday, April 4, 2008

FARC rules out unilateral release of Betancourt

Rodrigo Granda, known as the "Foreign Minister" of the rebel Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) Thursday branded as "inadmissible the request to release former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt" as a new signal the Colombian government deems a prerequisite to release FARC troops from jail and kick off a likely humanitarian swap.

"It is not admissible to ask us for more signals of peace. After so many incontrovertible demonstrations of our political willingness to find a solution to the conflict, they have responded with infamy and maleficence," said Granda in a letter he wrote jointly with guerrilla commander Jesús Santrich, news agency Agencia de Noticias Nueva Colombia (Anncol) quoted.

The communiqué entitled "Raúl Reyes, the path of life despite death" seemingly refers to the recent offer President Álvaro Uribe made. He conditioned the release of FARC troops and a likely humanitarian swap to a new unilateral hostage release, specifically that of Betancourt, Venezuelan official news agency ABN reported.

In their letter, both Santrich and Granda warned that "only following a swap of prisoners the people who are held in our camps will be released." The communiqué came concomitantly with a medical mission sponsored by the governments of France and Colombia, which is intended to provide assistance to Betancourt, even though the FARC has not confirmed its participation in the operation.

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