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Colombia's Uribe Offers Talks With Rebels on Hostages


Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says he is willing to send officials to a neutral area to negotiate the swap of government-held rebels for rebel-held hostages.

During a speech Friday in Bogota, Mr. Uribe said international observers should go to the yet-to-be-announced meeting zone, an area he said should be free of weapons.

Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy appealed to the leftist FARC rebels to release some 45 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Talks between the Colombian government and the rebels had been stalled over proposals to swap the hostages for about 500 FARC prisoners being held in Colombian jails.

President Sarkozy's appeal this week was apparently prompted by a recent videotape of the hostages which showed Betancourt looking extremely gaunt and despondent. A former Colombian presidential candidate, Betancourt was kidnapped in February 2002.

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