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Chavez lauded for move to free captives

Columbia welcomes the decision by leftist rebels to free three hostages and attributes their move to the mediation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

world Updated: Dec 20, 2007 15:45 IST

Colombia has welcomed the decision by leftist rebels to free three hostages and attributed their move to the mediation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was barred from brokering a prisoner swap last month.

Responding to the announcement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to free three of the 45 high-profile captives, Colombia's peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo on Wednesday said it was Chavez's efforts that yielded results, Spain's EFE news agency reported on Thursday.

The Venezuelan president began working to broker a hostage-for-prisoner swap in August but his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe pulled the plug on those efforts last month, alleging Chavez had violated the terms of authorization for the talks. The move had soured relations between Colombia and Venezuela.

In a communiqué, the FARC said on Tuesday that it would release Clara Rojas, the running mate of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, along with her son she gave birth to in her captivity and former lawmaker Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo.

The rebel group also indicated its readiness to resume talks over freeing other hostages on condition its demand for demilitarization of Florida and Pradera towns in the southwest be met - a move the Uribe government opposed citing security concerns.

"There's no doubt that the FARC is making a gesture to President Chavez. We obviously always considered that with Chavez's intervention we were going to achieve a movement in the FARC's position," the peace commissioner said.

He said the government was ready to hold talks with the rebels in Venezuelan capital Caracas and reach a humanitarian accord.

Meanwhile, the members of the other hostages' families urged Uribe to enter into serious negotiation with the FARC to help in releasing the captives.

Established in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, the FARC is country's oldest, largest, most capable, and best-equipped Marxist insurgency. The FARC is governed by a secretariat, led by septuagenarian Manuel Marulanda (popularly known as "Tirofijo") and six others, including senior military commander Jorge Briceno. The FARC is organized along military lines and includes several urban fronts.