Colombian rebels reject peace talks with president

2008-07-16 04:02:41 GMT       2008-07-16 12:02:41 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

BOGOTA, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Colombia's largest rebel group has rejected peace talks with President Alvaro Uribe's government, according to a letter transmitted to foreign press Tuesday.

"Uribe is not programmed by the gringos (Americans) for peace or an exchange (of hostages for prisoners)," the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in the letter dated June 26.

"Only a new, truly democratic government, arising from a broad national agreement, could return to the path of seeking a political solution to the social and armed conflict that Colombia is experiencing," it added.

Meanwhile, the rebels expressed an interest in talks with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega over what they called "war and peace" issues, and justified their activities to defend themselves from the "state violence."

"We would like to speak personally with you or your delegate on these topics of war and peace," said the letter.

The FARC also thanked Ortega for giving asylum to two female guerrillas, who fled a Colombian military attack on a rebel camp inside Ecuador on March 1.

Last week, Ortega said Colombia had become a "hotspot of instability" in the region after the Colombian government's hostage rescue operation earlier this month, which "killed the possibility of negotiations in the near future" between the FARC and Bogota.

On July 2, the Colombian army rescued 15 hostages held by the FARC, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. advisers and 11 Colombian soldiers, in an "unprecedented" operation in southern Colombia.

The FARC, established in 1964, has been fighting government forces for control of the country in the past four decades.

The Colombian government has demanded the release of more than 40 high-profile hostages taken by FARC rebels, while the FARC insisted that they should only be freed if the government releases hundreds of FARC rebels held in prisons.

Apart from the 40-some prominent hostages, the FARC also holds 700 other people, mainly Colombian police officers and soldiers.

Uribe and the FARC have argued over lack of conditions to carryout a peace process to free all the kidnapped people.

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