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President of Colombian bishops calls on rebels to be “flexible” in hostage release negotiations

.- The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Augusto Castro, has again called on the “Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia” (FARC) to have greater flexibility in reaching an agreement for the release its hostages, including three US soldiers.

The government of President Alvaro Uribe increased pressure on the FARC by offering incarcerated members of the guerrilla movement release from jail if they promise to renounce violence and participate in a rehabilitation program supervised by the Church or by another country.

With this measure, the government has rejected the FARC’s demand that federal troops be withdrawn from Pradera and Florida, two towns in southern Colombia.

250 rebels, including Rodrigo Granda—believed to be the “chancellor of the FARC”—have accepted the government’s proposal.

Nevertheless, the FARC has rejected the offer and insists that it will release its hostages only through direct negotiations and after troop withdrawals.

This Sunday, Archbishop Castro called on the FARC “not to insist on the withdrawal from the two towns” and to adopt “a change of attitude towards the humanitarian accord.” “I call on the FARC to respond to this gesture by the government and enter into different negotiations and not to be so rigid in its demands regarding Pradera and Florida,” the archbishop stated.

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