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Report: Colombian Rebels to Release Three Hostages

A Cuban news agency reports that Colombian leftist rebels have announced their intention to release three hostages and hand them over to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Prensa Latina reported Tuesday that the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, sent a statement saying that Clara Rojas, her young son, Emmanuel, and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez would be freed. It was not clear when the FARC would let them go.

Colombia's peace commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo, voiced skepticism, saying his government does not have other sources to establish the veracity of the statement. Prensa Latina said the captives would be turned over to Mr. Chavez or "whomever he opts to designate."

The statement attributed to the FARC also condemned Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who dismissed President Chavez from his role as mediator in talks with the rebels to free some 45 hostages. The move prompted Mr. Chavez to cut off diplomatic ties with Colombia.

Mr. Chavez said he would not personally meet the hostages upon their release, adding there was still a question of where they would be set free. The Venezuelan leader also said he had received a statement from the FARC concerning the release of hostages. Mr. Chavez made his remarks in Uruguay as he attended a trade summit.

The FARC has demanded the release of hundreds of rebels held in Colombian prisons in exchange for the hostages, who include three Americans as well as former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Betancourt was captured by the FARC while campaigning for the Colombian presidency in February 2002. Rojas, who was an aide to the French-Colombian politician, was captured alongside her.

Rojas's son was born in captivity and it has been reported that the father was one of her captors.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.