Colombia to besiege Farc hideouts

Opposition says move by the president poses "risk" to hostages being held by rebels.

    President Uribe is deadlocked in negotiations
    with the Farc [AFP]

    However, critics argue Uribe's plan could endanger lives, and that the Farc may execute captives such as Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, if threatened.

    "This implies a great risk," Carlos Gaviria, the leader of the opposition Polo Democratico party, said.
     
    Uribe is under pressure to reach a deal over hostages and is deadlocked with the rebels over conditions for starting talks.
     
    "The order is to locate the places where the hostages are held, surround them, and when they are surrounded call in the international community to establish a humanitarian process to free all the hostages," he said.
     
    High-profile hostages
     
    Betancourt was abducted while campaigning for the presidency in 2002.

    Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, three US defence contractors being held, were captured while taking part in an anti-drug operation in 2003.
     
    Profits from cocaine trafficking has funded the Farc during the majority of its four-decade-old conflict with the government.

    The US has provided about $5.5bn in aid to Colombia over the last seven years to fight the rebels and the drug trade.
     
    Eleven captured Colombian legislators were killed last year when the Farc said their camp was attacked by an unidentified military force.
     
    Other hostages have been executed by the rebels as government troops closed in on their positions.
     
    Hostage swap
     
    Uribe, whose father was killed in a botched Farc kidnapping in the 1980s, has offered to designate a remote and unpopulated rural area to negotiate a swap of hostages for jailed rebels.
     
    The Farc says it wants a larger area cleared of soldiers to set the stage for an exchange.

    Uribe refuses, saying that to grant such a safe haven would allow it to regroup.
     
    The rebels turned over two kidnapped politicians to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, earlier this month. Chavez says he will keep trying to negotiate hostage deals despite having been told to stay out of the talks by Uribe.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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