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Bishops call on Marxist rebels to withdraw "demilitarization" request as condition for releasing hostages

.- The Vice President of the Colombian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro of Tunja, Colombia, called on the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) to withdraw its request that two towns be demilitarized as a condition for releasing hostages.

“Proposals such as these are not welcome by the government.  Therefore, it is important to seek out alternatives and other ways to establishing a humanitarian agreement without giving up territory,” said Archbishop Castro.  The FARC has been holding hostage some 70 politicians, soldiers and policemen, as well as three US contractors, for over two years.

The rebel group has called for a “humanitarian agreement” in order to release them but only with the condition that the government release some 500 rebel fighters who are being held in various prisons, and the group insists that the towns of San Vicente de Caguan and Cartagena del Chaira be demilitarized.

On Monday, the FARC’s spokesman, Raul Reyes, announced the group would accept a proposal by the Church to mediate discussions with the government.  Archbishop Castro called the announcement a positive step forward.

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