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FARC report that new hostage release plans advancing

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  • Stuart Munckton
    Tuesday February 12, 11:12 AM Colombia hostage release advancing: FARC BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian rebel plan to hand over three ailing hostages to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2008
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      Tuesday February 12, 11:12 AM
      Colombia hostage release advancing: FARC
      BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian rebel plan to hand over
      three ailing hostages to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a
      Colombian senator is advancing although their release cannot be
      rushed, a top guerrilla leader said on Monday.

      A rebel announcement a week ago that they would release
      three former Colombian lawmakers has fueled hopes for a deal to
      free other captives, including French-Colombian politician
      Ingrid Betancourt and three American contract workers.

      "The unilateral handover of the three prisoners to
      President Hugo Chavez and Sen. Piedad Cordoba is advancing but
      without any rush or any pause," FARC commander Raul Reyes told
      Anncol news wire service, which often carries FARC statements.

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      The interview, dated February 11, came as families of the
      three hostages awaited news of their release in Caracas.

      Colombia's hostages are at the heart of a dispute between
      U.S. ally President Alvaro Uribe and Chavez, a Washington foe
      who brokered the release of two captives last month but who has
      angered Bogota by demanding more recognition for the rebels.

      Under Uribe's U.S.-backed security crackdown, the FARC --
      Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- has been pushed back
      into remote rural areas and violence from Latin America's
      oldest insurgency has ebbed sharply.

      The United States and Europe Union label the FARC a
      cocaine-smuggling terrorist group. Chavez had called for the
      guerrillas to be taken off international terrorism lists.

      The guerrillas are holding 44 key hostages they want to
      exchange for jailed rebels. Some hostages have been held for
      nearly a decade in secret rebel camps and many are sick with
      jungle diseases and stress.

      Earlier this month, the FARC said it planned to release
      three sick hostages to Chavez and Cordoba, a left-wing ally of
      the Venezuelan leader who has been engaged in attempts to
      broker a deal with the guerrillas.

      Among the high-profile captives are Betancourt, a former
      presidential candidate snatched in 2002, and three U.S.
      contract workers caught five years ago when their aircraft
      crashed while on a counter-narcotics mission over the jungle.

      (Reporting by Patrick Markey in Bogota, editing by Todd

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