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Uribe Says Colombia Would Welcome Unilateral Release of Hostages

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says that if the country's largest rebel group frees hostages unilaterally, he is open to the captives being received by his French or Venezuelan counterparts or the International Red Cross.

President Uribe made the comments Friday during a meeting in Bogota of the Latin American Parliament. The remarks came two days after Mr. Uribe decided to end Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's mediation of talks with rebel members of the group known as the FARC.

A statement said the Venezuelan leader violated an agreement with Mr. Uribe not to speak directly with the head of the Colombian armed forces, General Mario Montoya, about the hostages. Venezuela said it accepted the sovereign decision by Colombia, but described it as "regrettable."

Colombia said it will continue seeking what it calls a "humanitarian solution" that will lead to the hostages' release.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged Colombia not to end the go-between role Mr. Chavez assumed in August.

A Sarkozy spokesman said the French leader believes Mr. Chavez has the best chance of securing the release of the hostages, such as French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. Mr. Chavez and Mr. Sarkozy met in Paris earlier this week to discuss the issue.

Betancourt was running for the Colombian presidency when she and her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, were abducted and taken into the jungle. Betancourt has not been heard from since 2003. There is no word on the fate of Rojas.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.